Sheriff to school boards on security: What are you waiting for?

Butler County’s top law officer continued his public pressure campaign against some local school boards Tuesday by calling for them to install metal detectors, reduce fire drills and add armed officers to schools.

Sheriff Richard Jones released a letter on social media — prompted in part by last week’s shooting massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas — that he said had been sent to the publicly-elected school boards of all of Butler County’s school districts.

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“What are you waiting for?” asked Jones in his letter to school officials.

“I find it disturbing every time I hear of another child shot or injured or another teacher killed or wounded; and that our own local schools are not doing enough to curb this from happening here in this county again,” wrote Jones.

“Take action before one of your schools is attacked and many of your students and teachers are taken away by an active shooter. You need to revise the fire alarms procedures in your schools. In many cases, the shooter has attended your school system and is aware that children are taught to exit the building immediately upon hearing the fire alarm. Setting off that fire alarm provides the shooter with more targets,” wrote Jones in reference to a deadly technique used by some school shooters.

Jones has praised some Butler County school districts for adding to their range of security measures and personnel employed in recent months, but said other districts are lagging.

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“Your immediate action is required to stop schools from being a ‘soft target.’ I understand that a School Resource Officer or armed school employee may not stop the determined shooter from arriving — but they will be equipped to defend themselves and their students, until law enforcement can respond and end the situation,” he said.

In a Facebook video he posted Tuesday, Jones said “we need to look at metal detectors” for school buildings.

In the past, Jones has praised Lakota Schools, which is the largest district in the county.

Lakota’s 22 schools enroll 16,500 students in two townships — West Chester and Liberty.

Lakota officials recently added to their security measures an anonymous tip line phone number and website.

Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota, said, “we introduced the 24 hour SaferOH tip line in April. Parents, students and community members are able to call or text 844-SaferOH with anonymous tips about potential threats to student safety. The tip line is available through Lakota’s partnership with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Public Safety.”

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Jones’ department patrols a handful of non-city school systems in Butler County. City schools, such as Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield coordinate their school security through their local police departments.

He urged such districts to “please reach out to local law enforcement asking how you can make safety changes in your schools.”

Officials at the rural Edgewood Schools system recently announced they will have armed guards at each of the district’s five school buildings.

The school board for the similarly rural Madison Schools voted last month to allow staff who volunteer be trained and armed as part of a wider, extensive school safety training.

“The sheriff obviously has strong feelings about school safety, as does the Madison Local School District and we consider ourselves one of the leaders in our county in terms of the safety additions and changes we’ve made in the last two years,” said A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for the district.

In 2016 a Madison Middle School student used a handgun in school to injure three classmates.

“Moving forward we will continue to make safety and security an ongoing priority and no topic is ever off the table for discussion when considering making our schools more safe,” said Huff.

The latest move by Jones — who has grabbed national attention for offering free Conceal Carry Weapon (CCW) training to teachers and school staffers — is an escalation of an accountability campaign the veteran sheriff has tried for years to enforce on local school systems.

After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 26 students and staffers slain, Jones urged schools to hire retired police and military personnel trained in firearm use to work as substitute teachers in Butler County schools.

In February he expanded on the proposal but this time offered free CCW training to school staffers.

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