Ohio AG urges schools to submit safety plans

School safety plans

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling on all schools to meet the state law requirement that directs them to file a copy of both floor plans and safety plans with the Attorney General's Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

"The great majority of Ohio schools have filed their plans with us, but for more than 150 school buildings we have not received anything," said Attorney General DeWine. "We hope that we will never experience school violence and we must do all we can to prevent it. Having these plans in place and ready to be accessed by local law enforcement is an important part of our efforts to protect children."

Since the tragic loss of life from shootings at Chardon High School, 1,030 buildings representing more than 109 districts became compliant or renewed their compliance with state law that requires each of Ohio's school facilities to file a copy of both floor plans and safety plans, updating them at least every three years or sooner, if changes occur. Of those buildings, 320 schools had never submitted materials.

"The vast, vast majority of schools have complied," DeWine told FOX19. "I think the ones that have not, it's been an oversight."

Chardon High School was in compliance with the filing requirement.

Several local schools are on the list of those that have not submitted plans.

A number of Princeton City Schools made the list, but district officials argue their inclusion gives the wrong impression of the schools' emergency preparedness.

"It's a little offensive in Princeton because of the work the school board has done to prepare our community and our students and our staff," superintendent Gary Pack said.

Pack says the district has documentation from the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police that they received and digitized the high school's plan in 2007.

The attorney General says that may be the problem, however.

"That's not where they file and that's not what the statute says," DeWine noted to FOX19.

Pack says he took it personally when he saw the list of non-compliant schools.

"I do," he admitted. "It kind of seems that way taken out of context and we are very offended by that."

Pack says the district not only won a federal safety grant that has resulted in extensive training, but they regularly work with local law enforcement, and they review their safety plans yearly.

"We feel like we're probably one of the school districts in Ohio that's best prepared," Pack said.

Pack says in June the district got a letter from the Attorney General's office stating the district was missing plans.

"We weren't trying to get away form it, we were sending plans in, but that was the first time I've seen that letter," district safety director James Freland said.

"Our understand is that normally, it's [due] prior to the beginning of the next school  year," Pack shared.

"Maybe the letter should have given them a date but they're already out of compliance," Attorney General DeWine said. "So I had no authority to give them a date to comply with."

"We appreciate him bringing the awareness," Pack said. "We wish we could have had other conversations."

Regardless, Pack says the district is sending off the plans Wednesday.

"We've got plans that we can show you that you can't just dream up since seven o'clock this morning," Pack said.

DeWine told FOX19 he understands there may have been some confusion in the submission process and says he is sure even all of the non-compliant schools have safety plans. He says he is publicly asking for compliance so responding officers have the information they need in an emergency.

Cincinnati Public Schools have avoided making the list and avoided any confusion by submitting plans on an annual basis.

"Oh, it made me breathe a sigh of relief because that's my job to make sure they go in and ours go in every October," CPS Director of School Services Bill Moehring told FOX19.

Like at Princeton, Moehring feels like they are as prepared as they can be for whatever emergency may come their way.

"I think we're ready. I think we're in good shape," Moehring said. "Then again, there's always the unknown."

Attorney General DeWine also urged schools to submit plans that are clear and effective. Some schools, despite having met the filing requirements, have submitted plans that are too brief or unnecessarily detailed to be very helpful to local authorities who must move quickly if an incident occurs.

School safety plans may be sent by e-mail to SchoolPlans@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov. Hard copies of the plans may be mailed to the Attorney General's office at: School Digitization Project, The Ohio Attorney General's Office, 150 E. Gay St., 18th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.

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