RIVERSIDE, Ohio – The Mad River School District is taking a new approach to school security.
District officials approved a plan last month to create an armed response team using existing staff who will complete a three day, 26-hour training program to allow them access to weapons that will be stored in schools throughout the district starting in the 2017-18 school year, WHIO reports.
District officials and school board members studied the issue of securing schools for roughly a year, and they cited recent school shootings as a motivating factor for choosing a team-based approach, rather than installing resource officers, which are typically local police.
This was a very tough decision,” Mad river school board president Scott Huddle told the Dayton Daily News. “We as a board and administration felt like we were obligated to do more, now more than ever, to protect the students and the staff and visitors who come into our schools every day.”
Superintendent Chad Wyen explained to WDTN why the district choose to train and arm teachers, instead of relying resource officers.
“We determined as a board of education that the team approach would be way more effective than having a school resource officer. You have one individual person that can respond to a situation versus a team,” he said. “And if we want to reduce the risk and we want to make sure we have a safe environment, the best bet for us and what best fit our needs was having that team approach.”
School shootings have “become more prevalent and our society unfortunately is changing and it’s scary and it’s my responsibility and our board of education responsibility to make sure our kids are safe every single day, our staff is safe,” Wyen said.
Members of the volunteer response team will undergo a rigorous interview process with district administrators and Riverside Police, and will be required to undergo additional background checks and obtain a conceal carry license, WHIO reports.
The team members will take a 26-hour training class with the Buckeye Firearms Association, and will also participate in training and simulations with Riverside Police and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, the Daily News reports.
The district plans to install biometric fingerprint safes – that will only open for authorized staff – to house loaded guns in undisclosed locations throughout the district’s schools.
“Situations happen so quickly and our response time, if we don’t have (school resource officers) on staff, it’s going to take us a little time to get there,” Riverside Police Chief Frank Robinson said. “So I think it’s a good step, and like they said, another layer in the protection of our students.”
School board members approved the plan at their July 28 board meeting. The district currently uses ALICE training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate – for active shooter scenarios, but determined a more proactive approach would be better.
“We believe we have the best plan that works for us based on the needs of our students and staff and what our district looks like. The one option we did not discuss as a board was the option of doing nothing,” Huddle said. “We live in a day and age where we have to look at safety and in that situation we felt that there was something needed to be added to our layer of safety.”
WDTN reports that two other area school districts – Sidney City Schools and Houston Schools – already have armed response teams.