Accuracy takes top priority after a school threat, area district officials say

Area schools use police officers in buildings, security officers to keep students and staff safe.

Keeping parents informed after a threat is made to a school is a priority for schools across the region, according to a Dayton Daily News survey.

The newspaper surveyed area school districts after the Tipp City School Board of Education voted last week not to renew Superintendent Mark Stefanik’s contract, in part after he did not tell the board of education or parents about a potential threat to the district’s middle school on Dec. 7.

Tipp City Police Chief Greg Adkins said the student’s threat was considered credible, but an investigation found the student “did not have the means to validate his statement.”

However, parents and the board of education were upset over the lack of communication.

Districts across the region responded to the Dayton Daily News survey saying they push students to say something if they hear of a threat, and many districts said their primary way of learning of threats was through students telling trusted adults, like parents or teachers, who then report the threat to the school administration and police. Most districts said the most accurate information will come directly from the school administration, which can be limited at times due to the ongoing situation.

The school district and police will determine how serious the threat is before alerting parents, but most districts said they generally will alert parents as soon as possible, even if the threat is not deemed credible.

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“If a threat is deemed credible, we will begin contacting our parents immediately with the information we have up to that point,” said Scott Marshall, spokesman for Springboro schools. “Our students will be made aware right away, and our Crisis Team operations will go into place to secure the building and keep our students/staff safe.”

Marshall said if a threat is made to the district that isn’t deemed credible, parents will still be told about it.

“It is important to keep our community aware and to act,” Marshall said.

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Fairborn schools will contact parents as soon as possible with accurate information after a school threat, said Pam Gayheart, spokeswoman for Fairborn schools.

“As soon as we have reliable information, we contact our parents with information and updates regarding the situation,” Gayheart said. “We believe that timely and open communication with students and parents plays a key role in keeping everyone safe and keeping misinformation to a minimum.”

School resource officers

Across districts, school resource officers and security officers are a key part of dealing with threats to schools.

School resource officers are full-time police officers who often work in their local jurisdiction’s police department and who are stationed in the schools. Most districts have at least one officer who works in the school district, and some districts have multiple, each of whom work in a different building.

In some districts, school resource officers are also training teachers in safety.

In Kettering, school resource officers are immediately notified when a threat is reported to a school district, said Kari Basson, district spokeswoman.

“Our School Resource Officers are immediately made aware of the reported threat and they, in turn, follow their own department protocol in further involving the Kettering Police Department, as needed, in investigating the situation,” Basson said.

Chris Piper, Troy superintendent, said the relationship between the district and the Troy Police Department is strong and important for keeping staff and students safe.

“The Troy Police Department has always been willing to provide extra resources if requested,” Piper said. “Additionally, we have worked with the police department to provide emergency response training to our staff members every few years.”

Beavercreek has both school resource officers and on-staff security guards, said Anaka Bushman, spokeswoman for the district.

Centerville Schools use school resource officers from both Centerville police and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said Sarah Swan, spokeswoman for the district.

But even districts like Dayton Public and Oakwood City, who don’t have designated police officers in their buildings, still have a police presence at the school or security on the grounds.

Dayton Public Schools doesn’t have police on school grounds daily but have their own security guards who are present during the school day. The district also works closely with Dayton police.

“Depending on the nature of the threat, DPS Safety & Security personnel may investigate or may turn the matter over to the police. In the event of criminal activity, police are always involved,” said DPS Chief of Safety & Security Richard E. Wright II.

Allyson Couch, interim superintendent for Oakwood City Schools, said police are on school grounds daily and the district has a strong relationship with the Oakwood Safety Department — which is located down the street from both Harman Elementary School and Oakwood Junior/Senior High school.

Nancy Bowman contributed to this story.

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