COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order today creating the Ohio School Safety Center at the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS).
The center will be up and running within 24 hours and staffed by 7 individuals already employed at ODPS in the Homeland Security division.
DeWine listed 7 things the staff will be responsible for doing including analyzing web activity for threats, notifying authorities when necessary, and providing education and resources to school districts and their staff through training programs. DeWine says the center will be a “key tool in preventing violence in our schools.”
Additional funding through grants and the Ohio legislature will be sought by the ODPS to enhance the center after it is off the ground and running.
According to DeWine, the safety of our kids is always a work in progress, and that we should never be satisfied with what is being done to protect them. Wednesday’s announcement and executive order signing are part of the Strong Ohio initiative DeWine announced after the mass shooting in Dayton a few weeks ago.
It touches on several of the action items he outlined in his 17 point plan to address gun violence and mental health issues in Ohio.
Several school districts have already taken increased security into their own hands.
Columbus City Schools officials say they’re introducing 31 additional security staff members who will have a bigger presence, especially at elementary schools.
After the Dayton mass shooting earlier this month, DeWine unveiled a 17-point action plan gun sale background checks and mental health programs.
Many of those items dealt with increasing penalties for felons who possess a gun illegally, or use a gun in the commission of a crime, or for when a gun is used in the commission of a felony in general, or for when someone makes a strawman purchase for someone else, or for when an adult sells a gun to a minor, to name a few.
Other items dealt with getting people help when they are suffering from mental illness.
DeWine said his announcement on Wednesday provided additional details about his 17-point plan.
The OSSC will be headquartered at the OHS offices within the Ohio Department of Public Safety in Columbus and will continue the current work of OHS staff to annually review approximately 5,500 school emergency management plans and offer free risk and threat assessments to schools throughout the state.
According to a press release, OSSC staff will also:
- Promote and expand use of the SaferOH Tip Line through training and increased visibility to encourage more anonymous reports of school safety concerns and threats of violence. The SaferOH Tip Line, which accepts calls or texts to 844-SAFEROH (844-723-3764), is available free of charge to every school district, public school, and private school in Ohio. This centralized tip line is critical to ensuring information sharing, prevention, and intervention, yet it is severely underutilized. OSSC staff would educate school staff, students, and community members on how to use the tip line, what to report, and how confidentially is maintained. All tips are forwarded to local school officials and law enforcement.
- Proactively scan social media and websites for threats to schools through use of enhanced technology to identify threat language. Through the OSSC, intelligence analysts would conduct more thorough monitoring of online platforms for threats of impending school violence. When a threat is identified, analysts would immediately conduct a threat analysis and share the information with local law enforcement and school officials. Analysts would not monitor specific individuals.
- Review emergency management plans and implement threat assessment team training. OSSC staff members will review and assess emergency management plans and, at the request of schools, provide technical assistance to help schools strengthen their safety strategies. In addition, the OSSC staff will provide a model policy, a free training program, and guidance for schools that have a threat assessment team.
- Consolidate school safety resources in a centralized location via an enhanced website, saferschools.ohio.gov, to include resources on school safety from various state agencies including the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office. The OSSC would also create a school safety collaborative partner database to communicate training opportunities, meetings, promotional materials, model policies, and resources on a monthly basis.
- Host an annual school safety summit where school safety, public safety, and mental health professionals can share best practices, training, and resources with schools and community leaders from across the state. The conference, hosted by the OSSC, would focus on physical security, mental health, school climate, critical incident response, and treat assessment.
DeWine’s executive order also includes the creation of the Ohio School Safety Working Group, which will consist of experts in the fields of public safety, education, mental health, emergency management, and others, according to a press release.
The group will meet quarterly to discuss current issues and trends regarding school safety and local needs and would assist with the development of a yearly report on the state of school safety in Ohio, DeWine said.
DeWine appreciates the leadership of State Senator Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) and State Representative Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) in introducing school safety legislation and anticipates working with them as they advance their shared vision to enhance the safety of Ohio’s schools, officials said in a press release.
DeWine believes the OSSC is a key tool to achieving more secure schools, officials said in a written statement.