PREBLE COUNTY – School shootings aren’t supposed to happen, yet in recent years they have continued to do so across the country – and state. All are tragic and senseless, regardless of their location and number of victims.
Sometimes, they hit too close to home.
A 14-year-old boy was charged with attempted murder and other felonies after two students were shot during a lunch period on Monday, Feb. 29, at Madison Junior/Senior High School in neighboring Butler County. Local schools in contiguous districts in Butler and Warren Counties went on lockdown in the aftermath of the incident, as heightened security and safety precautions went into action.
And so did a Preble County school. Preble Shawnee Local School District is a close neighbor to Madison Local Schools, less than 10 miles from where the shootings took place. Upon hearing of the incident at the Middletown-area school, Shawnee locked down the district’s facilities at the building level, meaning students could move about in the buildings and were not kept locked in their classrooms.
Superintendents at other Preble County school districts recently shared their reactions to the Madison school shootings.
Dr. Barb Curry, superintendent at Eaton Community Schools, stresses “school safety is a high priority for the Eaton Community School District.”
“As our hearts go out to the students, families and staff of Madison Schools, it reminds us that these tragic events can happen anywhere,” Curry noted. “Once we were alerted about the shooting at Middletown Madison High School, the district took several actions. The district and Police Chief (Chad) DePew began conversations regarding the incident. In addition, an email was sent to all employees reminding them to review our Emergency Operations Plan ‘flipchart’ that identifies actions to be taken during emergency situations.
“We also recognized that our students have been exposed to this shooting through the news, internet, radio, etc. and that it would be natural for them to worry about these events and their own safety while at school.
“We continually put forth a concerted effort to provide the safest possible environment for our students. Our staff and students participate in either a safety or fire drill each month. Ironically, three of our four school buildings had a scheduled lock-down drill the day of the shooting,” Curry said. “Through the collaboration with the police and fire departments and emergency responders, we participate four times each year with a crisis plan ‘scenario’ that is specific to each of our school buildings. In addition, our entire staff participated in a crisis plan scenario that was specific to their school campus.”
According to Curry, through the partnership with the Eaton Police Department, a “to-go” bucket is placed in each classroom, with specific items to aid the classroom teacher and students in the event a crisis occurs.
“All of our teachers have received professional development on the use of this resource,” Curry said of the “to-go” bucket. “Our Emergency Operation Plan for each school building has also been approved by the Ohio Department of Education and Homeland Security.”
National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker also shared the district’s thoughts and prayers for everyone in the Madison Schools community.
“All schools around Madison are going to react to this incident by reflecting on their own ‘situations,” Parker said, “But the thing to keep in mind is many lives were changed forever. Thankfully no one was killed, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t tragic for some.”
National Trail did not lock down or do anything special during the time the Madison situation was going on, Parker explained. “We kept our eyes on it and the kids were certainly aware.”
“We planned and discussed our next intended safety drill at our February Administrative Team Meeting on Friday Feb. 26, which would’ve been prior to the Madison incident, but the fact is, we discuss some aspect of our Safety Plan at every monthly Administrative Team Meeting,” Parker said. “It is a standing agenda item headed up by John Toschlog, our Transportation and School Safety Director. Approximately 10 days earlier, Mr. Toschlog, Sheriff Simpson and Chief Deputy Spitler walked the building and reviewed most aspects of the plan. We have regular, consistent communication with the Sheriff’s Department.
“Our high school did review their lunch time drill in an emergency situation on Wednesday (March 1.) All three of our buildings have conducted emergency drills this school year,” Parker said.
Dr. Clint Moore, superintendent at Twin Valley Community Local Schools, explained, “As administration, we reflected upon our current plan of action to an active shooter, and reviewed steps we can take moving forward to better prepare our staff and students for what we hope never happens. Our teachers were encouraged to have age appropriate conversations with their students to reassure them that we do have a plan for dealing with this type of crisis.
“We can no longer think that small town school districts will not be impacted by these unthinkable acts of violence. Additionally, we will be discussing the district’s Emergency Preparedness Plan with out board members at the March 21 BOE meeting, to ensure we are doing all we can do to create a safe and secure learning environment for our students,” Moore said.
Moore also said TVS’ thoughts and prayers were with those students, parents and staff members of the Madison Local School District.
Moore issued the following post on the district’s website following the shootings at Madison: “It is very fortunate that in today’s episode of school violence no one was killed, and that a small number of students were injured by this senseless act. It makes all of us physically ill thinking about what could have happened.
“I want all of our TVS family to stop and take time to reflect upon what lessons can be learned from today’s events that took place just a few miles away. The students and staff members of every school district make crisis response plans, and practice these plans twice every school year, but the drills can never perfectly prepare us to deal with every possible school violence scenario. It is sad that we have to even talk with our students about these types of crisis response issues. We can no longer say that school shootings do not happen in districts like TVS. Madison Local SD is more like our district than it is different (size, demographics and now location.)
“Parents, hug your kids tighter, ask them about their school day, and most importantly listen to their responses.
“School staff members, watch and listen to all of our students, not just the ones that are easy to understand and personable. Love those who are seemingly unlovable, and we will be better able to address student issues before they think about bringing weapons to school.
“Lastly, TVS community, help us continue to make this school district the best place to raise kids and teach them how to grow up into healthy and successful adults,” Moore noted that day. “Let’s not allow this act of violence to go past without taking time to absorb its powerful message.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.