School safety summit takes holistic approach to protect children

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The Ohio School Board Association hosted a school security and safety summit in downtown Columbus Wednesday. As many as one-thousand Ohio educators, mental health providers, and law enforcement officers came together to share school security success stories, and to brainstorm ideas to keep children safe not only at school but before and after the bell rings.

Alissa Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, was shot and killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, said one of the lessons learned in the aftermath of the attack is that communities must shed the "it can't happen here" mentality.

"We want to feel that, and we don't want to feel like they are vulnerable," Parker said.

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It can, and has, happened in Central Ohio. In January of 2017, a teenage gunman shot and seriously wounded a classmate at West Liberty-Salem High School in Champaign County. In September of 2017, Columbus police swarmed Columbus Scioto after police say a student fired shots inside the school. No one was hurt.

Now, Ohio educators say they're working together to develop a more holistic approach to keeping kids safe both at school and after school. OSBA Transportation consultant, Peter Japikse, said school bus drivers know the best defense against the threat of an attack is prevention. He said drivers have two powerful weapons.

"One is the handle to the door, keep it closed, and the other is the accelerator pedal. If something's wrong, move away," Japikse said.

The Ohio School Board Association said safety and security at school must include mental health intervention for students in crisis. Parker co-founded Safe and Sound Schools, in part, to empower students to make a difference.

"We've seen how powerful their voices can be. Use them. Make them a part of those discussions. They see things and know things we just don't," Parker said.

To learn more about how students in your school district can have a voice, visit https://www.safeandsoundschools.org/

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