SIDNEY — School officials around Ohio are taking notice of Shelby County and Sidney City Schools’s security measures to protect students and staff members from potential school violence.
In fact, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and Sidney City Schools recently retired Superintendent John Scheu were invited among other top experts to present earlier this month about the schools’ security plan they developed six years ago at the 63rd Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) Capital Conference and Trade Show in Columbus.
More than 9,000 school board members, administrators, district staff, students and guests were expected to attend the 2018 annual conference and trade show that was held Nov. 11 to 13 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. According to OSBA, it is the second-largest education convention in the nation.
“We are very proud to be the leaders in (putting school security measures in place); certainly the first in Ohio, and probably in the top two or three in the nation of putting it together,” Lenhart said. “We were excited to be there and to present to 100 some folks about what we what we are doing.”
Lenhart and Scheu’s PowerPoint presentation included an overview of how the schools’ security came to be six years ago and what is in place today, Lenhart said. During the presentation, he said they explained the program’s “strengths and weaknesses,” as well as “the push back that we had from some folks.” The presentation was well received, he said, with several questions asked at the end of their talk, as well as continued follow up correspondence with some interested attendees.
The event’s theme of “Leadership for Learning” exposed attendees from over 650 Ohio public school districts to “professional development that prepares school district management teams for an ever-changing array of important education issues,” OSBA website states.
The annual conference included numerous speakers and “top experts’” insights for over 150 learning sessions on the latest education issues. The annual Student Achievement Fair was also held at the event, which included “100 booths of innovative school programs.” Numerous school goods, tools and services were offered at the education trade show.
“There were approximately 100 people in attendance, school board members, and administrators and other school people (for the presentation). And I thought it went very well. We had some good questions at the end of the presentation and had a few folks come up afterwards and talk to us for additional questions,” Scheu said.
“The plans that we’ve had in place in Sidney, we’ve had for five or six years and we’ve put a lot of time and energy into these security measures. And we feel that it is not a perfect plan, but it’s certainly a very good plan put in place to protect innocent kids and teachers,” Scheu said.
Lenhart explained that after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting he “was absolutely sure that we needed some form of law enforcement in the schools for security.”
“It appears to me that after Sandy Hook (shooting), that all schools are moving toward some form of security in place, and that takes all different forms, which is fine, but at least they are doing something,” Lenhart said of what he learned about other schools’ security plans. “I think you will find very few schools across the state and across the nation that have done nothing.”
“When we initially started, I was lukewarm about having teachers carry weapons in school. And I warmed up after the fact because we created a curriculum. We created 16-hours of training for the teachers. We have a screening process; the school, the superintendents have a screening process. We wrote the curriculum based on a task analysis. Our deputies taught about 400 teachers throughout the county,” Lenhart explained.
“Law enforcement should be teaching the teachers, so if something happens, they recognize those people by face; they’ve trained with them and they feel comfortable,” Lenhart continued.
The teachers’ 16-hours of training, Lenhart said, teaches “when to shoot and not to shoot, first aid and the legal issues that go along with that” as well as the psychology involved with an active shooter situation. Lenhart said weapons at schools are located in a locked box that are only accessible by authorized individuals’ fingerprints.
“We put tremendous responsibility on men and women who are teachers in that setting, as well as the deputies, so the way that we approached this is about training. You do things by repetition, so if you train on a regular basis, you will react in a real situation based on that training,” Lenhart said of teachers’ monthly training. “It is more than just giving somebody a gun and saying, ‘hey, good luck.’”
Lenhart said he and Scheu were pleased (to present) but the audience was “totally different” because it was for school officials from throughout Ohio versus the numerous types of other presentations they have given. He couldn’t name how many previous times they have shared their plan, but knew for individual schools, they have presented several dozen times.
Sidney City Schools’s new Superintendent Bob Humble, who took over Aug. 1, attended the presentation as a spectator, praised Lenhart and Scheu’s work developing a plan to protect students, teachers and staff.
“This program turned Sidney City Schools into a hard target instead of a soft target. Typically these people (active shooters) always go to places where they know there will be little or no defense. You don’t see people going into a police station shooting,” Humble said.
“John and John did a fantastic job. People ask how I like (the security plan) and I think it is fantastic. I am totally on board with it,” Humble said.
“You’ve often heard me say, I can’t think of any more important things in Shelby County for law enforcement than protect 10,000 kids. If there is, I’d like somebody to tell me,”said Lenhart. “And so we’ve started with that kink of a positive attitude and we’ve been at it for six years.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.