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Published: Tuesday, 12/31/2013

Sylvania Schools stemming violence

Programs such as ALICE set up guidelines, prevent harm

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

What began with ALICE training a year ago in the Sylvania School District has branched out into a behavioral plan that aims to set kids off a path of violence, as well as guidelines to prevent harm through social media. 

The district’s Safety and Security Committee began implementing the safety initiatives last January.

“The ALICE program certainly needed to be implemented right away. Now that we implemented that we continue to look at what has happened nationwide and why,” said Sgt. Justin Music.

Sergeant Music along with school administrators, teachers, and Sylvania Township fire and police officials are all part of the committee, which has added subcommittees to deal with specific aspects of safety. ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, is a proactive approach to handling a threat, and is implemented at the district's 12 school buildings.

Now the district is focused on layering security and in January each building will have a Behavioral Assessment Team comprised of an administrator, teacher, and counselor, said Assistant Superintendent Scott Nelson, who also chairs the committee.

Sergeant Music said that when reviewing past shootings and other violent incidents at schools nationwide they found that the perpetrators involved were on a “pathway to violence," meaning individuals did not go from a high quality state one day to being an active shooter the next.

The district is studying past incidents so they can learn from them, including ignored signs that students gave before they engaged in violence.  

"You can see some homework assignments that were terribly disturbing, and educators wrote on the homework it was disturbing, but there was nothing done," he said.

If the school district notices something odd or a disturbing sign that a child may be violent, the officials have implemented an approach to assess that child to help get them off the pathway of violence, he said.  

The Education and Mental Health Subcommittee organized a plan to identify students of concern, gather information, investigate the person, assess the student and the situation, and then put into action a management plan.

The school has had a protocol to deal with events in the past that included behavioral assessments. A systematic protocol, he said, is a more structured consistent approach, which follows best practices to give these children the help they need and to protect those in the community. Mr. Nelson added that the team was trained in December and the program is endorsed by Homeland Security.

Other layers of security the school will be focusing on in the next year is installing more secondary restraint options on doors to slow down someone from entering that will include latches, ropes, or wiring.

The district is also in the process of replacing side light windows next to internal doors with a sturdy Lexan, a material made of a polycarbonate. In the summer police practiced on sample structures with bullets, fists, kicks, gun handles, and objects found in the school. After the beatings, the structure maintained its” integrity,” Sergeant Music said.

“We saw a weakness with the glass by these doors. This is another layer of safety to make it harder for bad guys to get to us,” he added.

Other initiatives the safety and security committee members will undertake in 2014 is ensuring children are safe from harm caused by the use of social media, with a focus on assisting parents in ensuring kids are safe from cyberbullying as well as online perpetrators, Mr. Nelson said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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