- By Jeremy P. Kelley Staff Writer
Mad River Schools plans to create armed response teams next year, training select teachers and staff how to respond to a potential school shooter and giving them access to loaded guns that will be kept inside hidden safes in each school.
“This was a very tough decision,” Mad River school board President Scott Huddle said in a video message to the district. He referenced this year’s Middletown Madison shooting as a motivating factor.
“We as a board and administration felt like we were obligated to do more, now more than ever, to protect the students and the staff and visitors who come into our schools every day.”
Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen said staff who volunteer for the teams will have to obtain a concealed-carry license and will go through a rigorous interview process. Wyen said those approved will go through 26 hours of training with the Buckeye Firearms Association, plus training and simulations with the Riverside Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department.
The school district will keep loaded guns inside locked safes that can only be opened by the fingerprint of an approved staffer. Wyen said students and other school staff will not be told where the safes are or the identities of members of the teams.
Riverside Police Chief Frank Robinson said in the video message that all local law enforcement need to have that information.
“Situations happen so quickly and our response time, if we don’t have SROs on staff, it’s going to take us a little time to get here,” Robinson said. “So I think it’s a good step, and like they said, another layer in the protection of our students.”
Like many districts, Wyen said Mad River already does ALICE training (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) to prepare students and staff for an intruder or shooter. He said the district considered adding a school resource officer, as many schools have, but decided on a team approach.
“We realized ALICE wasn’t enough, Wyen said. “We needed to add another layer to our approach to school safety.”
The district has a year to prepare, and Wyen said they’ve already had detailed communication with Sidney City Schools, which has both armed staff response teams and an armed sheriff’s deputy in each school building.
School safety experts often advise that there’s no way to totally eliminate the risk of a school attack. In two recent interviews with this newspaper, safety analyst Ken Trump urged schools to keep a focus on more common threats such as assaults and noncustodial parent incidents. Trump often says the best safety procedure is to have all staff and students trained on a variety of situations.
Wyen admitted Mad River has been very quiet about its year-long review of the issue, which to the school board’s approval of the policy Thursday night.
“Once you start having the conversation with families, there’s a lot of emotions that drive that,” he said. “We’ll deploy a robust communication plan now to get this out there for our community.”
Early responses to the news — on the school’s Facebook page and this newspaper’s website — have been largely positive. Wyen encouraged residents, students and parents to call or email the district with any concerns they have.