SIDNEY — The procedure followed during the alleged threat at Sidney High School on Jan. 31 was questioned by a parent of a student who attends the school.
Kevin Calvert addressed the Sidney City Schools Board of Education during its meeting Monday night. Calvert, who is an officer with the Sidney Police Department, stated that he was there as a parent and not as an officer with the department.
But before Calvert was permitted to speak, Board President Bill Ankney reviewed the rules for public participation.
“Everyone is entitled to speak,” said Ankney. “When talking to us, you will have 3 minutes, which is standard procedure around the state.
“Don’t address a particular board member,” Ankney continued. “Address the president and superintendent. This will be recorded since it’s in public session.”
Calvert read from a prepared statement in which he voiced his concerns about how the decisions were made during the incident in which a student allegedly said he was going to “shoot up the cafeteria.”
“In Mr. (Superintendent John) Scheu’s press release, he described the threat as ‘taken serious’ as with all threats of this nature. Serious enough to activate the armed teacher first responder team and have plain clothes detectives present.
“I believe there is a risk of life when information is received in regards to a possible school shooter who is currently on campus and inside the building, and a decision was made to not lock down the school,” he continued. “Allowing a possible shooter or shooters in this case, who have not been identified to move free throughout the building is a serious security risk.”
Calvert said he had personal knowledge that the local police department had 16 officers working at the time of the threat were never notified of the incident.
“I have knowledge that all 16 officers on duty have been trained in active shooter response, Raider and Alice training,” said Calvert. “All 16 officers have been in involved in advanced building clearing. I have knowledge that 10 of those officers who were working have been trained in advanced tactical response. Of those 16 officers on duty, I have personal knowledge that they collectively have participated in over 500 actual high risk or high stress related building entries or search warrant executions.”
The officers, said Calvert, have an average of more than 17 years of law enforcement experience.
“What concerns me is that it was the collective decision of those in charge toignore this information and choose not to notify the Sidney Police Department, but to activate your teacher first responder team,” said Calvert. “Knowing those officers with this type of training and real life experience was available to respond in approximately 3 minutes.
“As a parent who is concerned with the safety of my student and the safety of hundreds of students who could be affected from an active shooter, I would feel a sense of security knowing that those who have knowledge and were calling the shots would have the sense to have experienced law enforcement officers respond along to work with deputies and with your security measures. With the size of the building and number of students present, a few plain clothes detectives trying to provide security and identify possible shooters is lacking to say the least,” said Calvert.
Calvert also expressed his opinion of when a first responder team is called into service.
“It is, and has been my belief, that the teacher first responder team was only to be called upon in a worst case scenario where an active shooter is present,” said Calvert. “The armed teacher with minimal training and zero real life experience in dealing with such matters were never intended to replace actual law enforcement officers.
“Please explain why with such a serious threat, where students have been suspended with recommendation for expulsion, you chose and made a conscious decision to not utilize all resources available,”Calvert concluded. “Not only did you choose not to utilize assets such as Sidney Police Department and Sidney Fire & Rescue but you made the decision to not even notify such agencies. This is unfathomable, dangerous and reckless and needs to be answered for.”
After receiving a copy of Calvert’s statement, Ankney said the board would respond to his concerns. He said he has talked with Sidney Police Chief Will Balling, Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst and a member of Sidney City Council about the events of the day.
SHS Resource Officer Deputy Anthony Cipollone was asked to review the incident. He said the first responder team members were not armed but were in the cafeteria during lunch periods and that’s where they are found during a normal school day.
Cipollone said he assessed the threat after talking to the student who came to his office.
“If we hit the panic button every time a comment was made, we’d be on lock down all day,” said Cipollone. “The source (who told Cipollone about the alleged threat) is a known exaggerator. I followed protocol and contacted my office.
“It was their decision to send in plain clothes detectives,” said Cipollone. “I was doing my investigation of finding the kids (who made the alleged threat). If I thought there was any danger, the school would have been locked down.”
Cipollone said he has no problems with contacting the Sidney Police Department and has contacted them before.
“It was just as I expected,” said Cipollone. “It was a joke. It was just two kids messing around.”
Cipollone did state that the Sidney Police Department will be notified if an event like this happens again.
Cipollone said the incident began at 9:15 a.m. when the student came to his office and told him what he had heard. The case was solved between 12:15 to 12:20 p.m.
“The kids safety is my No. 1 priority,” said Cipollone. “If I felt at any moment the kids were in danger, the lock down would have happened immediately.”
Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rick Cron, who oversees the training for the first responder team, said “no one was armed who wasn’t in law enforcement” during the incident. Cron is also a security officer at Sidney Middle School. He was a lieutenant with the Piqua Police Department and was also the commander for the Sidney Police Department/Shelby County Sheriff’s Office/Piqua Police Department joint swat team.
“The first responders were in the area to assist, as need be, with crowd control,” said Cron.
“There was an issue in the parking lot,” he continued. “That was a mistake between the two agencies. It should be addressed by the agencies.”
Cron was referring to a statement made by Balling after the event that a deputy told a police officer that nothing was going on at the school and it was just ‘some sort of exercise at the school.’ The officer who was in the school’s parking lot conducting traffic enforcement was Calvert.
“I don’t disagree that there was potential for danger,” said Cron. “It was investigated like any department would do. There was nothing out of order. Mistakes were made, yes. We need to use this as a learning experience.”
“The communication between the two departments is lacking,” said Ankney. “Overall what we’re hearing is things went well with what we had established. The disagreement with the police department on how it (first responders team) was set up has always been there.
“We will review what happened and make recommendations for future incidents,” said Ankney.
The board, along with Cipollone and Cron, went into executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss security arrangements or emergency response protocols of the district. No action was taken.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.