New Safety Act Requires Increased Security in Public Schools

Louie Krauss, Staff Writer

With a reported sixty-one school shootings since 1982, educational administrators and public safety officials across the country have come together to ensure the safety of their schools. Last week, Ohio State Representative John Rogers introduced the Student Safety Act, requiring newly constructed Ohio public school buildings to install a number of security devices, including surveillance cameras, metal detectors and radios that communicate directly with law enforcement.

In a press release from the Ohio Representatives website, Rogers explained the bill.

“We are all aware of the dangerous — and often tragic — situations that arise due to security breaches in our schools,” Rogers said. “The Student Safety Act would address root building security problems by requiring some basic security features in new buildings. Doing so will save money in the long run, as these features are much more expensive to retrofit in existing school facilities.”

The bill itself states that new school buildings must meet a minimum of two new security features and was made in part as a response to the Sandy Hook shooting.

“I decided to introduce this bill a number of months ago,” Rogers said. “I talked with a couple of retired police chiefs, school superintendents and teachers, including my wife, who is an elementary school principal. My thought process was that there are a number of initiatives being presented to the legislature to address potential school violence.”

Oberlin superintendent John Schroth claimed that these new measures might affect the Oberlin public school system.

“We applied for a grant a few months back: it let us either apply for MARCS radios which allow you to interface with safety forces [or for new cameras],” Schroth said.

One of the larger contentions of the bill is the belief that more energy should be focused on preventing mentally ill youth from carrying a gun in the first place.

“Technology is something that we have to have, but in reality is it going to stop someone who really wants to get into the building? Probably not,” Schroth said. “I think a much more appropriate approach would be to increase funding for mental health services and early detection, something that our country is sorely lacking in, especially here in Lorain County.” Schroth said.

Representative Rogers noted that both the Sandy Hook shooter and the Lake County shooters were mentally ill teenagers.

While these measures have the potential to prevent future school shootings, they do nothing to protect unstable children from hurting themselves, Schroth said. In Lorain County, while there haven’t been any shootings, the number of suicides has risen in recent years.

“In our county, no [shootings have occurred]. Sometimes you hear about someone bringing a knife to school but that’s about it,” Schroth said. “What we have seen more of are more teen suicides, and that goes back to mental health issues.”

Many schools have successfully applied for grants that to offset costs of cameras and radios, which can amount to thousands of dollars. In wealthier neighborhoods, police departments are able to assign a member of the force to the school without any cost to the school itself.

“Some of the discussions have been, ‘Can communities afford whether or not to put a school resource officer into a building?’ Often times a school system subsidizes the police department for that expense,” Rogers said. “Or if the police department is wealthy enough they’ll just put a police officer in the school. For instance, I’m back in the school in Lake County.”

In addition to lending police officers, Rogers said that police departments training public school teachers in the use of firearms would be an efficient way to lower security costs. He believes giving guns to teachers would allow them to better defend their classes from an attack.

“Not all communities have the ability to put a uniformed officer in the building. There’s been discussion about arming teachers. There’s nothing currently in the law that prohibits teachers from carrying guns into the school,” Rogers said. “The legislature just passed a bill, which I agree with in part and disagree with in another part, but the bill indicates that if a school system wants to do this then the individual has to have that type of training. It really teaches you how to handle a gun, but it still doesn’t make you always hit your target.”

Rogers also mentioned an incident in which an individual wielding a firearm was able to kill the gunman at a school shot others in the process due to lack of training.

College first-year Emma Snape said she believes that training teachers to use guns would cause more harm than good.

“Yes, teachers as American citizens have the right to own a gun. But they shouldn’t be able to bring guns into school,” Snape said. “By bringing a whole bunch of guns in, the chances [of] something bad happening just goes up. The whole point of gun safety is to not go near guns, so that doesn’t make sense to me.”