Ohio shootings raise awareness, highlight vulnerabilities in Kentucky schools

By Dan Collins

A high school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, has sparked interest in state and local programs, and highlighted vulnerabilities facing institutions.

T.J. Lane, a 17-year-old student at Lake Academy, was charged Thursday with three juvenile counts of aggravated murder for opening fire on students in the Chardon High School cafeteria Monday morning before school, according to The Associated Press.

The school district (in Chardon) had a good plan,” said Jon Akers, director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety.

School shootings in the past have led to the development of programs aimed at preventing and mitigating the effects of emergency situations.

KCSS was designed to “create safe, secure learning environments where all children can successfully achieve,” according to the organization’s website.

The center requires principals to perform an annual review of their schools’ risks, hazards and emergency management procedures.

“Principals called me and said they had a plan to protect students from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Akers said.

But the guidance for situations just before and after school was missing.

Akers said he has already developed a draft for response protocol to ensure schools in Kentucky are prepared.

He said that while not all crises can be prevented, school systems in the state and across the nation have effective emergency management plans in place.

“For every one incident, there are 25 averted incidents,” Akers said.

He attributed much of the prevention to students who alert teachers if peers are planning to commit acts of violence or if they are displaying erratic behavior.

“We’re reliant upon student-teacher relationships,” Akers said.

UK Police Chief Joe Monroe agreed that students and teachers play the most critical role in helping authorities manage crisis situations.

“Open line of communication and early warning are the two key elements in preventing an incident from happening,” Monroe said.

Monroe cited the UK Students of Concern team as a major contributor to the identification of individuals showing signs of high stress, irritability and suicidal behavior.

“We’re seeing more and more people come forward now,” Monroe said.

Monroe also mentioned that UK began developing emergency management protocol long before events such as the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2011 occurred.

Campus police have trained in conjunction with the local police department to operate effectively as first-responders, Monroe said.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said.

For more information regarding campus emergency management, visit www.uky.edu/EM.