By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell meets with media representatives to discuss school safety. Photo by Dan Yount

Cincinnati Public Schools’ Superintendent Laura Mitchell said the district’s schools are safe during a press briefing February 16 to discuss school security protocols following the Valentine’s Day massacre on February 14 in which shooter Nikolas Cruz returned to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., from which he had been expelled and fatally shot 17 of his former classmates and teachers and wounded others. Cruz was arrested shortly after the shooting occurred.

“We take the safety and well being of our students very seriously,’’ she said.

Mitchell also sent a letter to all principals to send on to their staff and students.

“Our country, once again, has been shaken by a devastating school shooting,’’ Mitchell states in the letter. “We join our nation in mourning the lives lost in Florida, and our thoughts and prayers are with the students and families who were impacted.

“As we work to understand how such violence can find its way into schools, I want to assure parents about the steps we are taking to keep students in our district safe. While no one can predict such a tragedy, we can make sure that we are fully prepared if such violence reaches our doorsteps.”

At the beginning of this school year, Mitchell launched a Safety Task Force that brings together experts from the Cincinnati Police Department, Cincinnati Fire Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security to develop strategies that enhance the CPS safety plan, using insights gained from the violent situations that have unfolded across the country in recent years “to ensure that students are safe each and every day,’’ she said.

“The Board of Education has been proactive in this matter,’’ she said.

The comprehensive CPS safety plan has been in place for several years, and includes school resource officers, background checks for visitors upon entry, controlled access to facilities, extensive emergency training of students and staff, frequent drills to practice safety measures, regular security audits, bag checks, and closed circuit monitoring through more than 4,000 digital cameras in CPS schools.

Additionally, CPS has in place:

  • 14 school resource officers at each of CPS high schools, who are Cincinnati Police Officers;
  • Over 90 security assistants working in CPS school buildings with principals;
  • Radio communication between those security assistants and safety officials;
  • Mental health programs co-located at every school;
  • Monthly safety drills for students and staff, including active shooter drills.

Mitchell also told parents she has a granddaughter in Cincinnati Public Schools, so she truly understands the concerns parents have when tragedies strike.

“Know that it is my priority to ensure that your children come home to you safe and healthy every day. Please keep the lines of communication with your children open, and encourage them to alert you and school staff if they see something they know is not right,’’ she wrote in her letter.

Lauren Worley of Cincinnati Public Schools contributed to this story.

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