The school in Chardon, Ohio, that was shaken by a shooting Monday that killed three students had a plan in place for this type of situation. Officials said the number of injured or dead at the school could have been greater if that weren’t the case.
One teacher risked his life chasing the shooter away, and an announcement over the school’s address system alerted students to take cover under their desks and for teachers to lock down their classrooms. It’s a drill they’ve done many times before. The school also had an alert system set up that allowed them to tell parents about the shooting so that they could respond appropriately.
It’s hard to grasp that we live in a world where our schools need drills in place to ensure they’re protected in case one of their fellow students opens fire but it’s that kind of foresight that possibly saved lives of Chardon High School students.
No one wants to think that tragedies like this could happen at our Orange County schools but it’s smart to question whether local schools are as well-prepared to handle a similar situation. Searching the Orange County Public Schools website, the only emergency plan or drill described is an evacuation drill, where students must exit the school in a quiet, single-file line.
Though OCPS does have a more targeted anti-insurgency protocol in place, in light of the Chardon incident, a second look may be needed to see what we can learn from what the Ohio school did wrong, and what it did right.
Preemptive action may have made this tragedy a non-incident. In Chardon’s case, responding to warnings on social networks could have stopped the alleged shooter before he started. Thomas "TJ" Lane’s morbid and threatening posts on Facebook as well as a Twitter post warning about events at the school that day should have been seen and acted upon before it was too late.
But how do you know if a child is just trying to find an outlet for their emotions, which can often be confusing and frustrating for teenagers, or if they’re really serious about doing something extreme? Plus, it’s unrealistic to expect schools to comb through their students’ Facebook pages, looking to anything that might spell danger in the classroom.
Schools have a responsibility to keep our children safe but it can’t be all on our teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, especially in a time when shrinking budgets mean less resources.
Parents, PTAs and other groups need to step up and take an active role in our children’s safety at school. Learn what you can about your school’s emergency policy, keep track of what your child is writing on Facebook and tweeting to friends and most importantly, talk to them regularly so that any problems that come up stay solvable, rather than turning tragic.