By Rick Palsgrove
Security measures at Groveport Madison Schools’ events have had a positive impact.
Groveport Madison officials instituted security/safety measures at school events after past incidents (including fights, the confiscation of guns, and arrests) as well as an incident at the Groveport Madison at Canal Winchester football game on Aug. 18. At that game, three modified guns (two Glock 19’s and one Glock 45) were confiscated and four arrests were made following a disturbance among teenage spectators. None of the guns were fired and there were no injuries.
“We had zero incidents at our football games this year,” said Groveport Madison Schools Deputy Superintendent Paul Smathers said at Groveport City Council’s Oct. 23 meeting. “Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams and Lt. Josh Short were with us every step of the way. It is a good partnership and collaboration between the city and the school district.”
Smathers said a lot of thought and effort went into establishing security procedures and protocols the fall athletic season.
“Our district and high school administration have a close collaboration with local law enforcement,” said Smathers. “Our administration walked through the entire football stadium and school building with the goal of putting as many protocols and procedures as possible in place to ensure the safety of everyone at our athletic events. We wanted fans to be able to enjoy the game without having any worries.”
Some of the security and safety measures instituted at Groveport Madison High School include: all attendees of athletic events at the high school are required to enter through the Evolv weapons detection system upon entry; establishment of a security zone at the venue; a no bag policy; use of student IDs; a no admittance or purchase of tickets after the end of the second quarter; horseplay, insubordination, and disrespect are not tolerated; and students should follow the dress code stated in the Groveport Madison Schools Student Handbook.
“We implemented our ‘safety zone’ at all home football games where we required attendees to walk through the Evolv Safety Scanners before reaching the ticket booths,” said Smathers. “We followed the same bag policy that Ohio State has for their athletic events. We made sure students not affiliated with either school playing in that evening’s matchup were not attending the game to cause issues and that students in eighth grade or below were not attending the game without an adult.”
Groveport Police Lt. Josh Short said high school Principal Jeff Altman, Assistant Principal Casey Martin, Sports Supervisor Tommy Snyder and all of the school staff implemented and carried out “a great security plan” this football season.
“Temporary fencing and the school’s Evolv weapons detection systems were used to create a safe zone in front the gates where game attendees were screened prior to getting into the stadium,” said Short.
According to Short, other procedures controlled and limited admission to the game after half-time and disallowed re-entry.
“School staff was vigilant and consistent with enforcement of the safety plan and made it clear to all attendees, especially students and other teens, that all rules and code of conduct would be followed with zero tolerance for disruption,” said Short. “Troublemakers decided to stay home or go somewhere else to cause problems.”
Short said the police are working with school officials on plans for the upcoming winter sports season which will continue to see use of the Evolv detection system.
Smathers said the plan is to use the same security procedures that were in place for fall sports for all winter sports.
“We are still in the process of ironing out what that exact plan will look like, but it will include using the Evolv Screening Detectors as attendees enter the high school, the same bag policy, and younger students being accompanied by an adult when they attend games,” said Smathers.
The Evolv weapons detection systems are also in use daily at the high school.
“The Evolv system is a great addition to the security infrastructure at the high school,” said Short. “There have been no firearms alerted on by the system or otherwise discovered on any person in the school. There are only a few incidents of small utility/Swiss army style knives being picked up, but no auto-open or hunting/combat style blades. There has also been a marked decrease in the number of incidents involving marijuana and ‘edibles.’ The number of incidents with vapes is down as well.”
Smathers said the Evolv Screening Detectors are great and their implementation was easier than expected.
“Students quickly adapted to walking through the detectors every morning and they are all in class before the bell rings,” said Smathers. “To date, no weapons have been detected and there has been no weapon violence at school.
Short said the number of fights at the high school are down this year.
“There are still fights occurring at the high school, but the frequency is down compared to the last couple of years,” said Short. “Principal Jeff Altman is working to change the culture in the building and hold students accountable for their behavior. Although it is unfortunate that school administrators spend a lot of time on discipline issues Mr. Altman has a quality team that works to support their staff and foster a safe and productive learning environment for the students. The high school security officers do a wonderful job of being present and engaged with students.”
“Yes, we have seen a decrease in high school fights so far this year,” added Smathers. “I believe the students really responded to our intense focus on school safety. We have a goal of decreasing violence and improving our culture and climate and the students seem appreciative of that. When students refuse to follow the rules and cause disruptions for everyone else, we will take firm actions to address their behavior.”
Short said the district supports the Groveport and Madison Township police departments with a zero tolerance policy that results in appropriate criminal charges for serious and dangerous disruptions.