When faculty and staff at Miami University’s two Butler County branch campuses were taught active shooter training two weeks ago, they never thought it would be discussed this soon or hit so close to home.
The Hamilton and Middletown police departments conducted the safety training with faculty and staff members of Miami University’s campuses this month, said Brennan Burks, director of public affairs at MUM. Then, on Monday morning, during a staff meeting at MUM, officials learned about a possible active shooter at Ohio State University.
The initial report later was changed to a man who drove onto campus and stabbed several students before he was shot and killed by police.
“This was a real-life situation that shakes us,” Burks said. “This was too close to home.”
The incident also made the safety training “come to life,” he said.
Whenever there is an incident, regardless of its location, Burks said the MUM staff thinks about its procedures and policies.
“We take this very seriously,” he said of campus security.
Claire Wagner, spokeswoman for Miami University’s main Oxford campus, said it wasn’t on heightened security alert beyond the normal precautions taken every day.
“We aren’t doing anything different on campus,” said Wagner, but school officials on Nov. 2 sent out a regularly shared reminder with students and faculty about the school’s emergency response procedures.
“I would hope that the overall community is reminded that we do prepare for these type of things,” she said in reference to the attack on Ohio State’s campus.
Perry Richardson, spokesman for the Miami University Hamilton campus, said that regional campus is not changing its security routines.
“We are very diligent,” said Richardson. “What happened this morning (at Ohio State) brings it all too close for comfort.”
Burks said MUM has a campus wide alert system in the event of an emergency, typically weather related, but he said most students probably would learn about an incident on social media.
Several area parents said that’s how they learned their children, students at Ohio State, were safe, minutes after the incident was reported.
Seconds after Chase Kirby, 21, a senior at OSU, was alerted about the attack, he forwarded that message directly to his mother, Ginger Kirby. Her first reaction: Drive from Springboro to Columbus and bring her son home.
“It was so upsetting,” she said. “You worry about your kids forever.”
She quickly learned that her son was still in his campus house at the time of the incident because he has no Monday morning classes. The wife of Joe Kirby, a Warren County juvenile judge, said violence is becoming a common occurrence and she doesn’t know how it can be stopped.
“It seems like it’s an everyday thing,” she said of violent incidents in the United States.
Debbie Sander, senior director of student services for the Middletown City Schools District, was in a staff meeting when she received a text from her daughter, Elissa, 21, a nursing student at OSU.
Sander excused herself from the meeting and continued communicating with her daughter, a 2014 Fenwick graduate. She later learned her daughter walked from her campus apartment to the James Hospital, about a one-mile trip, where she cared for a 19-year-old female who was injured in the attack.
The incident left Sander shaken, she said.
“Our kids are not safe anywhere,” she said. “Unless we wrap them in a bubble. It’s just scary.”
Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw posted on Facebook that his son, Matt, a freshman at OSU, was safe: “Thank you for the calls/texts. Matt’s safe. He was near Watts Hall when it happened but the police told them to run away - Locked away safely now elsewhere. Prayers for Ohio State students and faculty. At some point, this madness has to end.”
Chief Muterspaw received national attention earlier this year for a social media post after an officer-involved shooting.
Even before the news of the incident was announced, Nancy Nix, Butler County treasurer, said she learned her daughter, Liz, a senior accounting major at OSU, was safe.
“That was a relief,” Nix said.
Nix said having violence on an Ohio campus, about 90 minutes from Middletown, “hits home.”
Despite the dangers, Nix, who has four children in different colleges, said she worries more about them when they’re driving on the highway than when they’re away at college. Unlike when she was in school, Nix said this generation has been taught how to react during violent situations.
National school security expert Ken Trump praised Ohio State officials for their reaction to the attack.
“School and public safety leaders must manage two crises simultaneously: Respond to the unfolding violent threat and respond to the crisis communications needs,” said Trump who is president of the Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services.
“OSU had a textbook response with its timely Buckeye Alert to the school community and university police promptly engaged and neutralized the threat,” he said.
Compared to attacks on K-12 school campuses, those on college campuses — which often have students living far from their parents — can be especially problematic with the distance causing even more stress for school parents.
“Emotional and psychological grieving will take place for months and possibly years; however, it is even more emotionally challenging at the university level where parents may be hundreds, or thousands of miles away from their children who are on campus. Strong emotional and psychological support, and regular communication, will be critical,” said Trump.