By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison Schools officials are working with police, staff, and students to enhance safety and security in the schools.
The actions are being taken due to incidents of violence and other issues that have taken place in the high school.
“We will not tolerate students who are uncooperative, disrespectful, or present a safety threat to others,” wrote Groveport Madison Superintendent Jamie Grube in a recent letter to the district’s parents. “The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority…We will continue to evaluate and implement new safety measures in the future, both at the high school and across the school district.”
At the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Jan. 11 board meeting, Grube said safety measures are important for having secure schools, but there is also more to be considered.
“The most significant thing we have for safe and secure schools is a safe and healthy school culture,” said Grube. “A school culture where people know each other and kids talk and trust adults. It’s about building relationships and creating a sense of belonging and pride. It’s where everyone takes ownership of school safety.”
Safety steps; positive school culture
At the board’s Jan. 11 meeting, Deputy Superintendent Paul Smathers outlined steps being taken to improve safety and a positive school culture. Immediate steps include: providing students with a voice and choice; building strong relationships; positive class meetings at the high school; providing students with social-emotional interventions and supports; student recognitions, rewards, and celebrations; police communication and collaboration; student/staff safety drills; staffing focus in hallways, restrooms, and lunchroom; Cruiser Time daily activities focused on positive school culture and environment, school safety, and making positive choices; re-entry meetings with suspended and expelled students with behavior and safety plan; District Safety Committee (comprised of 25 parents, staff members, students, other officials, and Smathers); and reducing the number of students in the high school cafeteria during lunch.
Smathers said reducing the number of students in the high school cafeteria at lunch eliminates having up to 500 students in the cafeteria at once.
“We give them the option of enjoying lunch in another part of the building,” said Smathers.
Smathers said short term actions include: issuing IDs to students in grades 6-12; instituting Attendance Monitoring System; conflict and de-escalation training for staff members; threat assessment training for Threat Assessment Team members; assigning a staff member to the high school security office for surveillance and phones/walkies; implementing school culture, environment, and safety surveys; recalibrating Vape detectors; and creating fun activities for students during lunch periods, such as intramurals – an example of this was the students vs. staff volleyball game held before Christmas.
Long term plans, according to Smathers, include: establishing safe and secure entry areas for elementary and middle schools; more security cameras; open door notification system; radius server for WIFI access; staff alert system; AI video surveillance; electronic hall passes; Raptor Visitor Management System; digital citizenship and awareness training for students; social media safety; and Cruiser Academy program.
Metal detectors/weapon detection
Still pending is a decision by district officials on whether or not to institute a weapon detection system (metal detectors or wands).
Stating the community wants to see action, board member Kathleen Walsh made a motion for the board to pursue obtaining metal detectors for the schools, but the motion did not receive a second and failed.
The other board members and administrative officials felt more information is needed on the metal detectors’ costs, types, effectiveness, training needs, and personnel requirements, as well as the impact metal detectors would have on school culture before a decision can be made on installing them.
Board member Chris Snyder cautioned that metal detectors could create trust issues in the schools among students and staff.
Added Snyder, “Some people in the community want metal detectors and others don’t.”
District officials will present the board with pricing and policy information regarding the potential use of metal detectors/weapon detection systems at a future board meeting.