Ohio sheriff unveils billboard campaign blasting school districts on safety

Ohio sheriff billboard condemns school district on safety
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones speaks at a news conference at his office earlier this month. (FOX19 NOW/file)
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones speaks at a news conference at his office earlier this month. (FOX19 NOW/file)

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - A southwestern Ohio sheriff unveiled a billboard campaign this week calling out school districts he says are not moving fast enough to make safety upgrades to protect students and staff from mass shootings.

His first target: Hamilton City Schools in a billboard that went up Monday morning at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Maple Avenue.

The sheriff said he went after Hamilton first because he considers their district one of the worst.

"Because I believe it may be one of the least secure and least transparent of all the school boards," he said in an interview. "And, I don't believe they've done enough or are doing enough, and I don't believe they're transparent at all, with what they spend their money for. And they should spend money now, to make it more secure."

Hamilton school officials released a prepared statement when we contacted them for comment.

"We share Sheriff Jones' concerns for safe and secure school environments," said Superintendent Larry Knapp, according to the statement.

"In our ongoing effort to be transparent, last week we reached out to Sheriff Jones and he has agreed to meet with us. We plan on sharing our current safety procedures and protocols and also additional measures we would like to implement in the future."

The sheriff said more billboards are coming to draw attention to other districts who are not doing enough to increase security in light of mass shootings at schools in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

The Republican sheriff has been speaking out 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.

Jones was one of the first elected officials nationally to call for arming teachers in schools and made national news earlier this year when he offered free firearm instruction for them and other school staff.

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.

VIDEO: 'We've got to do something' Sheriff greets teachers at gun training

The sheriff also held a press conference in March with a Hamilton High School student who joined him in asking for increased school security.

In addition to arming school staff, Jones has called for installing meal detectors, law enforcement in all schools and changing the use of fire alarms.

He also sent letters urging school safety reform to President Donald Trump, Gov. John Kasich and the Butler County Fire Chiefs Association.

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