DeWine says school safety issues go beyond shootings
Gov. Mike DeWine touted a “holistic” approach to protecting students and said — without dismissing shootings — that the issue of school safety is more than just the tragic events that make headlines.
DeWine made these comments in an address to the Ohio School Safety Summit in Columbus. More than 1,000 people are attending the summit which features presentations from a collection of school safety experts.
“I think we need to look at school safety kind of holistically. And again, while we focus very understandably on the horrible tragedies that we have seen in school shooting, in schools, school safety does go certainly does go beyond that,” said DeWine.
DeWine commended the crowd for consistently addressing the day-to-day safety concerns students face, such as getting to and from school and the possibility of bullying.
He added that a major problem relayed to him from educators is the issue of student trauma and mental health issues.
“They've said to me, ‘Mike, you know, I can teach. These kids can learn in the classroom. But the real challenge is, for some of these children, it's the trauma that they've had to deal with.’ It is the fact that some of them may not have a breakfast when they come to school, just things that occur outside the classroom,” DeWine said.
A priority since DeWine took office in 2019 has been to increase funding for school districts to provide additional services to students. The state has appropriated $1.3 billion to schools in what DeWine called “wellness dollars.” He told the crowd that he planned to renew that fund in the next budget.
DeWine’s approach to school shootings has focused on increasing the security of school buildings and “fortifying” those structures. In response to the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting in May, DeWine asked the Ohio legislature to increase funding for school building security.
At the summit, DeWine announced the state is awarding the first round of school security grant money which totals nearly $47 million to 1,183 schools in 81 counties. The money, which can be up to $50,000 per school, covers physical security needs such as security cameras, exterior lighting, and visitor badging systems.
The money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan, which all Republicans in Congress voted against, including Ohio's 12 GOP Congressmen and US Sen. Rob Portman.
DeWine also commented on HB99 which sets the maximum amount of required training for teachers to carry guns in schools at 24 hours. As he said when he signed the bill in June, DeWine emphasized this to be a local school district decision and added that there are other important ways to keep kids safe besides arming teachers.
DeWine, a Republican, has faced criticism for his approach to school safety from his gubernatorial opponent Nan Whaley, a Democrat. Whaley has said Ohio needs to address the larger issue of preventing gun violence through “common sense” regulations.
DeWine said the state has been creating a framework to be a resource for school districts, such as the Ohio School Safety Center which will create the curriculum for the training teachers will need to carry guns in schools.
During the summit, DeWine announced that Mary Davis will be the chief training officer for the Ohio School Safety Center’s new safety and crisis division. Davis will oversee that training for teachers.
With that framework, along with resources for social media monitoring and a safety tip line, DeWine said school districts have the ability to make their own decisions on safety.
“We trust our schools. Our schools and the people who work in our schools have historically done a phenomenal job in keeping our children safe,” said DeWine.