COMMENTARY |Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine addressed the safety of students and school staff in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown. The learned elected official also noted that whether or not arming trained staffers or a security guard with a gun is a question he should leave to the 600 school boards in the Buckeye State, according to the Toledo Blade.
DeWine offered his insight and suggestions about how best to protect children and school employees while discussing a partnership between the Ohio Department of Education and a host of law enforcement and school organizations, NewsNet 5 notes. The School Safety Task Force began working on enhanced protection initiatives after the Chardon High School shooting earlier this year. The goal of the partnership is reportedly to train teachers and principals to identify possible problems before they happen and to help respond should an emergency occur.
Attorney General Mike Dewine had this to say about school safety in the wake of the recent and horrific mass shooting in Newtown:
“The truth is that, while we train first responders, the real first responders in these tragedies are teachers. They’re the ones who are there. They’re the ones that are going to make the life and death decisions. They’re the ones that are going to do what they can do to save lives. By the time the first responders get there, we may already have a number of children killed. That’s just the fact, no matter how good the first responders are or how fast they respond. So it makes sense to be training [teachers and administrators] as well as law enforcement officers.”
Current Ohio law makes it illegal to take a gun onto school property, even for trained and licensed concealed carry permit holders. DeWine also stated that the question of arming a security guard, teacher, or administrator will be a point of discussion.
The Ohio Attorney General had this to say when expanding upon the matter:
“If I was on a school board — and I’m not … It’s the toughest job there is. I would seriously consider having someone in that school who may be an ex-police officer, someone who has significant training, who had access to a gun in a school. But you’d have to be very careful about it. I’m not saying everyone in school should be armed, but someone who knows exactly what they are doing who has that gun under lock and key and who can get to it instantly, that’s something I would at least debate and talk about in the school.”
Gun ban or gun control advocates will likely not agree with the possibilities the Ohio official voiced, but he raises points which are very worthy of future exploration and discussion. I have met and interviewed the Attorney General multiple times while he served the state in various positions. He is neither a far-right extremist nor a man easily prone to knee-jerk reactions.
It is only logical to train school employees in the best manner possible to ensure the safety of everyone inside the building. Should guns be allowed inside Ohio schools, it could very well deter a would-be attacker from going inside knowing that armed opposition was waiting. DeWine is not opening up the door for a rifle across every educator’s lap while they teach the ABCs, but a controlled and monitored storage and use of a gun to prevent more senseless and tragic school shootings.
In addition to possibly allowing trained staffers access to a securely stored gun on school property, the impediments to easy escape should also be a part of the new educational partnership. While fire drills are commonplace, student exit strategies often do not take into consideration that the fire, or shooter, could be blocking the door they have drilled time and time again to use. Panic is a lot more likely when the practiced point of exit cannot be utilized and students are not used to immediately going to a secondary area designated during a backup drill.
Many old school buildings had windows that actually opened and doors leading out to the playground. In an effort to protect students with extra-thick glass windows that do not open, we have effectively limited the routes students and staff can use in case of an emergency. If faced with an armed gunman somewhere in the building, going out a classroom window would provide the quickest and simplest method of escape.
Students in second floor classrooms could use emergency drop-down rope ladders, the type that firefighters already recommend be kept in ever two-story home. Although it would require parental permission for students to practice safely scaling down a rope ladder; being trapped inside a classroom as bullets ring out in the hallway make the hurdles to instituting such an escape plan small by comparison. A soft carrier lift attached to an inexpensive pulley system could aid in the transport of physically handicapped students in a second floor classroom.
All reasonable options should be a part of the discussion on how best to protect our children when we send them off to school in the morning. Mike DeWine’s willingness not to shy away from ideas which include the all-important aspect of giving one of the trained “good guys” access to a weapon highlights his desire to keep Ohio children safe.