From left, Cincinnati Fire Chief Roy Winston, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac discussed school safety and security August 23 at the Education Service Center. Photo by Frances Russ/Cincinnati Public Schools
By Herald Staff
Now that classes are back in session for Cincinnati Public School’s 36,000 students, it’s time to talk about school safety.
Superintendent Laura Mitchell and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac last week discussed measures pertaining to school security and pedestrian safety for the upcoming school year.
A few weeks ago, the school district rolled out its new three-year strategic plan, with one of the five goals addressing the health and safety of CPS students. Under this goal, the district plans to increase the number of school social workers from 26 to 35 by the end of the school year, reaching 52 social workers by 2021-2022.
Two years ago, Mitchell created a Safety Task Force comprised of law enforcement and safety officials from local and regional organizations to advise district officials on best practices to improve safety and security at the schools.
Also, last week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order creating a specialized division of Ohio Homeland Security devoted exclusively to the safety of Ohio’s students and schools.
The Ohio School Safety Center will assist local schools and law enforcement in preventing, preparing for, and responding to, threats and acts of violence, including self-harm, through a holistic, solutions-based approach to improving school safety.
Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell said she welcomed an executive order issued by DeWine aimed at enhancing the safety, security and personal well being of schools. Mitchell issued the following statement:
“The safety of our students and staff is at the forefront of everything we do. The Governor’s Ohio School Safety Center will address issues that we’re also working to address here in Cincinnati. CPS is leading efforts to enhance positive school culture through positive behavior intervention supports, increasing the number of school social workers and partnering with mental health agencies. CPS is one of the only districts in the state to have a mental health partner servicing every one of our schools.’’
The CPS School Safety Task Force is comprised of local law enforcement and safety officials, and advises the district on best practices to improve the safety and security of our schools.”
DeWine said, “Given that schools are often targets of violence, school safety proposals are a prominent part of STRONG Ohio, my 17-point plan to reduce violence with dangerous weapons and increase mental health treatment. Having one office where the staff solely focuses on keeping our students safe and our schools secure will allow analysts to nimbly assess threats, proactively address potential issues, and expertly train and support school faculty in a more streamlined manner.”
Mirroring national trends, Ohio has experienced several incidents of violence in schools over the past seven years, including shootings at Chardon High School in 2012, Madison Junior/Senior High School in 2016 and West Liberty-Salem High School in 2017. In addition, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 10-24 years.
The Ohio School Safety Center will:
- Promote and expand use of the SaferOH Tip Line through training and increased visibility to encourage more anonymous reports of school safety concerns and threats of violence. The SaferOH Tip Line, that accepts calls or texts to 844-SAFEROH (844-723-3764), is available free of charge to every school district, public school and private school in Ohio.
- Proactively scan social media and websites for threats to schools through use of enhanced technology to identify threat language.
- Review emergency management plans and implement threat assessment team training.
- Consolidate school safety resources in a centralized location via an enhanced website, saferschools.ohio.gov, to include resources on school safety from various state agencies.
- Host an annual school safety summit.