JUNE, 2022 (Published 06/13/2022)
Following the recent school shooting in Texas, there is a heightened awareness of doing everything we can to protect our children. We recently had a regularly scheduled meeting between the City and the County regarding 9-1-1 Emergency Management. Prior to that meeting, I contacted Mayor Theresa Kelly and City Administrator Roze Frampton and asked their thoughts on having our 9-1-1 meeting focus on school safety. They both agreed that this was timely and important. The members of our 9-1-1 meeting that regularly attend are Mayor Theresa Kelly, City Administrator Roze Frampton, our County Commission which includes me as Presiding Commissioner, our Western District Commissioner Dave Mapel, Eastern District Commissioner Alvin Thompson, Chief of Police Jon Maples, 9-1-1 Coordinator Cindy Hanavan, Sheriff Steve Cox, Deputy Sheriff Michael Claypole, Sheriff's Department Office Manager Sindy Thomas, and Fire Chief Eric Reeter. In addition to these regular members, we invited County Clerk Sherry Parks, school resource officer Mike Lewis, and the superintendents from our four local county schools: Chillicothe R2 - Dan Wiebers, Bishop Hogan - Pam Brobst, Chula - Melissa Young and Southwest - Bernie Schneiderheinze.
A significant portion of our meeting related to discussing the many components of the Texas shooting that were not managed properly - from unlocked doors to law enforcement waiting outside, to dispatch calls not being received by law enforcement. Each area represented was able to respond as to what should happen if we were in that circumstance. Mike Lewis, the Public-School Resource Officer, is very knowledgeable on best practices and training and offered a great deal of valuable insight. One very significant point is that our police and sheriff department unequivocally stated that in a scenario like the Texas shooting they would immediately be breaking into the classroom to take out the shooter. This is the current understanding of best practice in that type of a situation. (An interesting side note to this is that we had a serious disturbance at the courthouse just the other day in which emergency buttons were activated and both the police and sheriff's department had multiple officers arrive within only a minute or two to manage the disturbance. The reaction time and response were very impressive and are certainly one of the reasons we are extremely fortunate to have our current law enforcement staff).
Other topics included every school having one entrance and the rest of the exits locked. We also discussed the importance of the front desk person who buzzes in a person visiting the school and continued teacher and student training on procedures. Electronic card systems for entry and additional cameras were also mentioned by one of the school districts. The Sheriff's department expressed their desire to increase their visits to the schools outside the city limits: Chula and Southwest. Additional potential protection on doors and windows was also discussed and each school district is going to try to examine what could be done in this area and the potential cost for our further review. Mike Lewis has agreed to assist the other schools in the county with information on request that can assist them in determining their needs.
In summary, I think the discussion from all the parties was productive and hopefully prepares us better to prevent a shooting in our City and County. Unfortunately, I am afraid no system or set of procedures is ever fool proof; but the intent is to be diligent in doing everything we can to protect our kids. I want to thank all the members of the committee and invited guests who participated in this discussion.