In light of yet another deadly mass school shooting, an outspoken southwestern Ohio sheriff is calling on school boards, President Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich to make changes in schools now to keep students safer.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones envisions metal detectors installed in schools, changes in how fire drills are conducted, armed school staff and more school resource officers.
"I find it disturbing every time I hear of another child shot or injured or another teacher killed or wounded," Jones wrote in letters to local school boards Tuesday, "and that our own school boards are not doing enough to curb this from happening here in this country again."
"What are you waiting for? The one time it happened here was too much.
"Please reach out to local law enforcement asking how you can make safety changes in your schools. Take action before one of your schools is attacked and many of your students and teachers are taken away from you by an active shooter."
He also sent the letters to Trump, Kasich and the Butler County Fire Chiefs Association.
By lunchtime, Jones said State Fire Marshall Jeff Hussey had reached out to him and agreed the way fire drills are conducted needs to be changed to keep schools safer against active shooters, especially ones that hide behind the mask of a false fire alarm.
"Both agree that consideration should be given to remove pull stations (fire alarms in hallways accessible to everyone) from school buildings, updating their policies and getting legislation passed in regards to fire alarm requirements and procedures in our schools," Jones' office said in a prepared statement.
"Fire drills are an effective and very necessary measure for ensuring public safety in schools and other settings, as recognized by law here and throughout the United States. The Fire Marshal, who is responsible for enforcing those laws in Ohio, spoke recently with Sheriff Jones to reinforce his commitment to that responsibility," a statement from the Ohio Department of Commerce said.
The Republican sheriff has been trying to raise awareness about school safety for years.
Those efforts were stepped up after he and his deputies responded to a February 2016 school shooting in Madison Township that left four wounded and again after the deadly mass shooting killed 17 students and staff members and wounded more than a dozen others in Parkland, Florida shooting on Valentine's Day.
In fact, in February, Jones gained national attention by offering free firearm instruction to teachers and other school personnel.
He had to cap it off at 300 when 250 signed up in less than 24 hours. To date, 150 school personnel have been trained.
He said he is compelled to speak out again now after a student gunman armed with a shotgun and pistol stormed Santa Fe High School about 30 miles southeast of Houston on Friday and opened fire.
Eight students and two teachers died, and another 10 people were wounded, including a school resource officer left in critical condition.
Beyond letters, the sheriff said he plans to take out a billboard soon criticizing one school district, Hamilton Local Schools for what he says is a lack of attention to school safety.
They have been more concerned, he said, with keeping the public who elected them into office from discovering details about why the former superintendent recently resigned than ensuring the security of their campuses.
By comparison, Jones said, other local school boards took swift action since the Parkland, Florida mass shooting:
Hamilton School Board President Steve Isgro referred our request for comment to the current superintendent, Larry Knapp, who has yet to respond to a message for comment. We also have a request for comment into a school district spokeswoman.
We will update this story with their comments once we have heard back.
"Your immediate attention is required to stop schools from being a "soft target," Jones letter concludes. "I understand that a School Resource Officer or armed school employee may not stop the determined shooter from arriving - but they will be equipped to defend themselves and their students, until law enforcement can respond and end the situation.
"For your children, for your staff - take the necessary actions now."
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