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Student appears with sheriff to plead for action to make schools safer

Hamilton High School student Erika Scott discusses school safety with Butler County Sheriff RIchard Jones. (Photo: Butler County Sheriff's Office) Hamilton High School student Erika Scott discusses school safety with Butler County Sheriff RIchard Jones. (Photo: Butler County Sheriff's Office)

A Hamilton High School student joined Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones Thursday to ask for increased school security.

Erika Scott contacted Jones earlier this month and said "he's the only one who reached out and answered my plea for help."

Scott said she wrote letters outlining her concerns to a state representative in her district but did not hear back and to the school board "and all I got was OK I'll pass it on."

The sheriff, however, contacted her within 24 hours of receiving her letter and asked her to come in and talk to him. They talked for two hours.

"I am here today because I want you to know we have a problem. A problem that is not going to go away overnight," she said. 

The outspoken sheriff began teasing the student's announcement in a series of tweets earlier this week.

Hamilton Board of Education President Steve Isgro said he forwarded Erika's letter to the superintendent. 

Interim Superintendent Larry Knapp sent this letter in response:

The Hamilton City School District continues to do everything it can to provide a safe and secure environment for our students and staff.  With the recent advent of the school shootings in Florida the HCSD district, like many other districts in the nation, have been receiving input from many concerned public and private sources including many of our Hamilton High school students with recommendations as to what should be done in response.   The Hamilton City School Board members and the administration are aware and are listening to all of the communications sent their way including that from Erika Scott.  In Erika Scott's letter she asked to form a "security task force".  Our high school principal did respond to Ms. Scott's request to our Board President.  In that response Erika was asked to be a part of a student leadership group to give the students a voice in their safety concerns at the school.  It is our continued hope that she will be a part of that group.

Beyond this, it should be noted that the district has been getting other questions from parents and community members regarding our district safety procedures, plans and protocols.  In response a letter was drafted and sent home with all students to explain to parents information in that regard.  The same letter was also put on Facebook and our district website for all to read.  It was our hope that this would answer many questions and to a large extent it did. 

In our district's continued safety efforts, it is also relevant to mention that the HCSD Security and Safety Committee recently organized a safety meeting (including school leaders from all private and parochial schools as well) in cooperation with Chief Bucheit of the HPD for a presentation by him and his officers in regards to recommendations for additional safety measures that our schools could employ including changes in how we do fire drills in response to the Florida shooting.  In response, the HCSD has already embraced many of those suggestions and implemented changes within our safety protocols.  Understandably, we do not share all of our safety and security practices with the public so we do not compromise what we are trying to accomplish.  It is purely in the interest of the safety of our students and staff to do so.

Finally, representative of the HCSD District Safety Committee will also be participating in a county wide Safety and Security in Schools Roundtable Discussion as organized by Kathy Piaskowy who is the Director Public School Safety for the BCESC where we will be discussing a wide array of school safety concerns to share ideas and best practices to that end.  It is our hope to come away with additional improvements as well.  

In closing, our efforts to insure and improve the safety and security of our students, staff and schools is an ongoing process that we work very hard to maintain and improve.  To that end, the HCSD will continue to listen to our community to making these improvements and we thank them for their input.

State Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, said he contacted Hamilton High School's principal and plans to go into the school soon to talk with Erika and other students who also have written him letters.

"I want to sit down and talk with them and listen to them and see if we can come up with a plan to not only make their school safer but better as well," he said.

On Wednesday, students and teachers across the nation and locally walked out of their schools and universities to honor the lives of the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting and to press lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws.

Erika said she didn't think the walkout was the best way to get the help she thinks schools need to improve safety.

"I am proud that my peers coordinated a respectful dedication to the 17 students yesterday," she said, 'however walking out to the football field for 17 minutes or....actually we had another threat yesterday so it was a walk down to the gymnasium ...wont take back the 17 lives lost in Florida. It won't prevent the next school shooting or threat, which I am sure will happen again somewhere someplace."

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