MIAMI VALLEY — A recent U.S. Secret Service report says many school mass shootings could have been prevented if school systems had implemented certain policies.
Tonight, News Center 7’s I-Team investigates if the steps school districts in the Miami Valley are taking in the name of safety match was federal agencies say could prevent the next school shooting.
While our past reporting has focused on technology, Sean Cudahy took a closer look at what district’s are doing to develop human intelligence to provide better protection.
A 9-1-1 call from Mary York over a year ago played a significant role in preventing her son from Brandon Clegg from carrying out a mass shooting in Richmond, Indiana, state police said.
But the pain from that day and Brandon’s death by suicide inside Dennis Intermediate School still lingers for those in the community, like Kenny Bantum.
“It affected a whole bunch of people,” he said.
While Indiana State police say York’s information was critical that day, information uncovered by the I-Team shows districts like Kettering continuing to invest in devices, such as a door jam.
“We wanted as much accessibility as we could because we were proud of what we were doing,” said Ken Lackey of Kettering City School District. “It's really hard to imagine to imagine that now you keep access limited as much as possible to make sure only the people who belong in the building are in the building.”
It's been some time since school buildings have had side entrances just unlocked during the day, but in recent years many districts have tightened security at the front entrances as well.
Just to be able to get in the front door you have to be buzzed in.
But once inside the building, chances are you’re on camera, like in Kettering.
The I-Team found systems like this are practically standard now across the region.
“It is the reality and we have to do whatever it is to keep people safe and secure,” said Lackey.
But a report from the Secret Service reviewed by the I-Team said protecting students takes even more.
The recent study looked at 41 school shootings from 2008 through 2017.
In 80% of them the schools already had some sort of physical security measure.
Nearly half had a resource officer on duty at the time and more than two thirds of those schools did lockdown drills.
But the report also said that 80% of the attackers were bullied and 71% used guns in the past.
All of them showed some sort of concerning behavior before the attack.
Many of those things we now know about Brandon.
The Secret Service said knowing all of those warning signs is key.
“All school personnel should be trained to recognize signs of a student in crisis,” the report said.
It recommended teams to assess threats, training to identify students in distress, zero tolerance for bullying and systems for students to report concerns anonymously. That last part is key.
The I-Team asked area school districts if they are doing those things.
Every school district we contacted said it had student and staff training to recognize concerning signs. Every district has anonymous bully and threat reporting. Each had threat assessment teams, or something similar.
All districts also had cyber-monitoring programs with the exception of Troy Schools. And all had school resource officers or private security with the exception of Oakwood Schools, where officers do routine drop ins and the district says response times are just 90 seconds.
Kettering Schools leaders said they are also taking all those steps.
It’s work that never stops.
“We are constantly looking for areas of need, and areas where we can improve our safety and security,” Lackey said.
It’s something that’s on Alicia Huddleson’s mind as she sends her son to kindergarten this fall.
“But it also gives a sense of security for us parents to leave our kids in a safe environment, a safe building,” she said.
Safer buildings, the federal officials say, now requires not just locking doors and buying expensive technology, but also teachers and students knowing what warning signs to look for.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper told the I-Team they do not have their own cyber-monitoring program because tey use a similar state program.
In the mean time, Brandon’s mother, Mary York, is now facing charges related to the December 2018 shooting scare.
Prosecutors say she did not try to stop her son from getting guns at their house and that she removed him from a hospital despite her son saying he wanted to kill students who bullied him and left him unsupervised.
Her trial is set for April.