Local schools take aim at safety

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Recent tragedies have made gun violence a top concern in the nation and particularly in the nation’s schools.

In an effort to provide information and training, Sheriff David Lucas and Dept. William Artrip have shared information about Active Shooter Training with district administrators.

The program is sponsored by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and offered at no cost. So far, the superintendents of Martins Ferry City Schools and Bridgeport Schools have signed up to attend a course at Columbus this Thursday.

Artrip said the program was developed and is taught by local author Dan Marcou, who provides psychological insights into potential active shooters which may help identify a situation before it occurs. The course also includes training on how to respond when an active shooter is in the area. Information on FERPA and HIPPA laws are also provided.

“It starts the thought process and some planning process and it promotes communication with law enforcement too. It’s a team concept,” he said. “It helps them to understand ways they can prevent violence and save lives and respond.”

Artrip added that there has been a change in the atmosphere among school officials, especially in light of the massacre in Connecticut.

“It’s made awareness higher. People are more keenly aware of what might happen and they want to try and prevent it,” he said, adding that the sheriff’s office is extending other forms of training to the schools. Sgt. Jim Zusack and Sgt. Glen Moore have been teaching the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) program, and a dialogue has been started with the possibility of providing resource officers.

“You try not live in fear, but it’s always on your mind,” said Martins Ferry Superintendent Dirk Fitch, adding that he frequently hears of a new incident in a school or public setting. “You’ve got to be vigilant and have a plan. Hopefully attending this training will provide insight in dealing with these situations.”

He added that the district has a part-time resource officer on the grounds throughout the day.

“We’re always doing things to ensure safety,” said Bridgeport Superintendent Ted Downing, adding that he hopes to find out more information that may provide the staff with more tools to recognize or respond to a dangerous situation.

“You never know when something’s going to happen. You hope it never happens in your district,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the students and staff.”

He noted that the board has hired a resource officer for the remainder of the year. On Jan. 27, 3 p.m. a meeting will be held to place a 1 mill operating levy on the ballot for a position.

“We’re going to ask the public and community for support,” he said.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com