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State program seminars prep for school shootings

Though the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting brought school security to the forefront of public interest, the topic has been on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s mind for much longer.

“Part of the job is to train law enforcement how to handle an active shooter; we thought it would be a good idea for teachers, too,” DeWine said.

DeWine said he started to put together the Active Shooter Training for Educators program after the Chardon High School shooting in February of last year.

DeWine’s office will be holding 10 seminars throughout the state, including one at the Athens/Meigs County Educational Service Center in Chauncey on Feb. 7.

He said the program does not involve any gun training, but it instructs teachers how to assist in a crisis situation in other ways, such as how to recognize a student or person who might become a shooter.

“Teachers are really the first responders if a tragedy occurs,” DeWine said.

Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle agreed teachers are the first responders only in the sense that they might be the first people to take action in a crisis situation.

“The role of teachers is survival of their students and themselves; the role of law enforcement is to end the threat,” Pyle said in an email.

Pyle added APD has training in active shooter tactics every year in which it partners with the Ohio University Police Department.

DeWine said his office has an obligation to avert a crisis and provide teachers with the best practices to avoid a tragedy.

“There are a lot of signs of other shooters, which are recognized after the fact,” DeWine said.

Athens High School Principal Mike Meek said teachers at his school are taught to look for changes in mood and behavior at an annual staff meeting, similar to what will be taught at the seminars.

DeWine said in the wake of the multiple mass shootings in recent years, law enforcement agencies have determined the best practices to prevent them. Both he and Pyle agree it is important for teachers to be aware of those practices.  

“The tactics of hiding under a desk and waiting to see what happens is dangerous and ineffective and not what we teach for a variety of reasons,” Pyle said.

 

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