Uvalde, Texas massacre has local schools on high alert, evaluating building security

The recent school shooting massacre at a Texas elementary school has area schools on high alert, say local school leaders. Recent years have seen an escalation of security measures including Butler County Sheriff deputies being directed by the department to make more frequent stops at local schools (pictured) to help deter potential, armed attackers. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Combined ShapeCaption
The recent school shooting massacre at a Texas elementary school has area schools on high alert, say local school leaders. Recent years have seen an escalation of security measures including Butler County Sheriff deputies being directed by the department to make more frequent stops at local schools (pictured) to help deter potential, armed attackers. (File Photo\Journal-News)

As waves of grief enveloped the nation in the wake of Texas’ school massacre, area education leaders are reflecting on America’s second most deadly school shooting and point to it as the latest reason to continue their daily, high-level security at local schools.

And as if they needed more reasons, fewer than 24 hours after the Texas school shooting, Talawanda Schools scrambled in the wake of a violence threat Wednesday morning to put its middle school on a precautionary lockdown.

The latest local school security threat saw Oxford Police quickly investigate and hours later arrest a student allegedly connected to the threat.

ExploreStudent arrested after violence threat lockdown at Oxford school

And though Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones said Wednesday local schools are safer than after the nation’s most deadly school shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, more needs to be done, he contends, to protect students and teachers.

Classes have ended — or will soon — for Butler County and southern Warren County public and private schools, but superintendents told the Journal-News Wednesday they too were shocked by Tuesday’s armed attack by an 18-year-old on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The shooter, who according to reports had earlier Tuesday shot his grandmother, crashed his car on school grounds and then entered the school where he gunned down 19 elementary children and two teachers before responding police officers shot him dead.

The 18-year-old shooter had barricaded himself into a classroom and used his AR-15 style rifle to shoot the students.

ExploreTexas elementary school shooting: What do we know so far?

“My heart breaks for the entire community of Uvalde,” said Billy Smith, superintendent of the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools.

“I don’t have all of the answers, but something has to change. These tragic incidents cannot continue to happen,” said Smith.

Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller, leader of southwest Ohio’s largest suburban district and the ninth most populous in the state, echoed Smith in expressing grief and also in calling for changes to end such tragedies.

“It is heart wrenching to see the continued loss of life at our schools across the nation. We need elected officials to put politics aside and work on legislation that minimizes the opportunity for tragedy to repeatedly happen,” said Miller, whose 24-building school system has an armed school police officer on each campus.

The Texas school massacre is also a call, he said, to heighten Lakota’s already vigilant approach to school building safety.

“At a time of national tragedy, we often reexamine our own protocols and continue to evaluate our safety procedures. While our protocols are always evolving … there will be lessons learned. There always are in situations like the one that occurred yesterday,” said Miller.

Lakota, Fairfield and other districts upgraded their security measures dramatically in the years that followed the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre of 20 elementary students and six adult school staffers.

Millions of dollars of local tax, state and federal funds have been used by local school districts to overhaul security measures in the post-Sandy Hook years.

The changes have ranged from modernizations of school building security measures — including restricted and camera monitored buzz-in entrances for all visitors, emergency alert buttons to silently notify local police of an attack to the adoption by some districts of classroom door barricade devices designed to keep active shooters out.

Kings Schools in southern Warren County was one of the first to purchase the classroom door barriers along with Talawanda and Lakota, with more districts following suit.

Kings Spokeswoman Dawn Gould said extra school police patrols will be at each of the district’s school buildings through this last week of classes.

“The safety and security of our staff and students is our highest priority. We have a solid safety and security plan in our district and a strong relationship with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office,” she said.

And, said Gould, each of the district’s classrooms are equipped with anti-active shooter door blocks to keep an armed attacker from entering.

ExploreVideo & story: In wake of Florida school massacre 3 alleged threats and lockdowns add to tense week for schools in Butler County

Active shooter drills on local school campuses have been more prevalent in recent years with one of the largest in Butler County history taking place on Ross Schools’ middle school grounds in 2019.

ExploreWATCH: Ross Middle School transforms into active shooter scene for huge Butler County drill

But more needs to be done, said Sheriff Jones, who exclusively told the Journal-News he would have graded area schools level of security against an armed attack soon after Sandy Hook as either an “F” or “D-”.

In 2016, a Madison school student wounded three classmates in a cafeteria shooting before being chased down and arrested by an armed school police officer supplied to the district by Jones’ department.

ExploreMadison details safety improvements after school shooting

Now, said Jones, he would rate area school districts at a “C+”.

“Schools are safer now, but they need to step up to the plate and they need to do more.”

Jones, who has clashed with some area school districts, including Hamilton schools, in his advocacy of arming volunteer school staffers who would be trained in firearm use, said armed protection is the best preventative measure against armed school attacks.

More schools need to add “law enforcement officers there in the school or someone in the school with a weapon, that is trained, puts them there before the police can get there” during an armed school attack, said Jones, whose department supplies many area schools with school officers.

Ed Theroux, superintendent of Talawanda Schools, mirrored the exasperation of other area school leaders toward the periodic, fatal school attacks.

“Enough is enough. We need to work together to stop these tragedies,” said Theroux.

“The narrative of accepting school shootings, hatred, and other mass shootings is simply unacceptable,” he said.

“No parent or family member should send their child to school - or any place for that matter - and then be planning their child’s funeral later on in the day.”

About the Author