Madison Local Schools District is implementing safety measures in the wake of a school shooting last month at Madison Jr./Sr. High School that injured four eighth-grade students.
Superintendent Curtis Philpot said Friday morning in an exclusive interview with this news outlet that the district is installing several “immediate action items.”
He said the district is purchasing two security wands that will be used to check students as they enter the building. He said the hand-held metal detectors, which cost $200 each, will be paid out of the district’s general fund. He said the wands will be used sporadically and not every student will be checked.
He doesn’t think walk-though metal detectors would be effective at the school because of the short time frame every student enters the building. He said unlike airports, it would be impossible to tell students to arrive two hours early so they could pass through security.
The district also hopes to hire another school resource officer to assist SRO Kent Hall. Philpot said the plan is to hire another SRO for the remainder of the school year, then evaluate the effectiveness and consider hiring the officer again next school year.
The district has called an emergency school board meeting for 9 a.m. Saturday to discuss the new SRO, Philpot said. He will ask the board to fund the second SRO, then seek grants to cover the costs in the future. Hiring another SRO to patrol the two buildings in the 1,600-student district would be “a huge enhancement,” he said.
Also, Philpot said, the district is considering training selected staff members to carry firearms at school. He said the students would not know who was carrying a weapon, and Philpot believes that could be a deterrent to possible school violence.
“I’m not opposed to a policy that strengthens the appearance of security,” he said. “The power of the policy is no one knows who’s carrying and who’s not. I do believe people who are planning or considering doing something bad would prefer not going in somewhere where you may face armed resistance.”
He said Edgewood has a similar policy in its district.
The district also is partnering with Ohio Homeland Security to provide a 24-hour safer school hotline/text line where students can anonymously report any possible safety concerns. Philpot said if needed, school administrators and law enforcement can be contacted within seconds after a report has been made.
He said it’s a free program for the district.
Madison also may consider adding metal blinds to its classroom doors, replacing the larger windows in doors with smaller ones or replacing the glass with thicker or shatter-proof glass, he said.
AJ Huff, communications director for the district, said she’s writing grants that hopefully will cover the costs of some of the proposed safety improvements.
The district is revising its safety policies after James Austin Hancock, 14, allegedly shot two classmates and two more were injured during a lunchroom shooting on Feb. 29. Hancock was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of felonious assault, inducing panic and making terroristic threats, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. He remains in Butler County Detention Center awaiting his next pretrial hearing scheduled for April 5 before Juvenile Judge Ronald Craft.
The district hosted two forums this week for parents of students in the district. Philpot said the district shared some of its security measures and received feedback from the parents.
Several of the parents addressed the need for continued counseling for those possibly impacted by what Philpot called the “traumatic events.”
He said the discussion at the forums wasn’t all about physical enhancements.
Instead, he said, “It was about supports for kids. It was about programming. We are committed to that.”
He said counselors will remain in the buildings to meet with students and staff.
“We know there are kids who need that even if they don’t seek it out,” he said. “We are going to outreach to them. We don’t want a student to be suffering silently.”
It’s also imperative to make the counseling available to the staff, he said. He said two staff members were in the cafeteria during the shooting as were cafeteria workers. He said administrators were some of the first on the scene, and they applied pressure to the gunshot victims. And the teachers in the two buildings were locked down with their students until the alleged shooter was captured and the building was cleared.
During the two forums, one for junior/senior high parents, the other for elementary student parents, Philpot said most of the parents agreed with the direction the district was taking its security measures.
Ron Evans, a father of two Madison elementary school students, said he was impressed by the district’s plans.
“They’re on top of things,” Evans said. “On the right track.”
After the shooting, Evans talked to his children. His message: “Be really careful about what you say and do. People are gong to take that differently now, and you could get in trouble.”
Evans, a 1994 Madison graduate, believes the district is safer today than before the shooting.