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Boardman school safety is No. 1 priority

January 9, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Work continues on making sure Boardman schools are safe and secure. Superintendent Frank Lazzeri said besides looking at updating entrance security systems, the staff and students have been, and continue to be trained for what to do in an emergency.

"Nothing is full-proof. If an evil person wants in they will find a way," he said. "Our number one defense is having a trained staff and students."

He also said it is important to act quickly, as the district did the day before Christmas break. On Friday, Dec. 21, Lazzeri said the school got wind of a message that a gun was coming to school.

"We immediately contacted the Boardman Police and in minutes we had an officer at each of our school buildings," he said.

The partnership with the police has paid off. Boardman's school resource officer Chuck Hillman works with the middle school and has been on top of programs geared to school security issues. Lazzeri said he had learned of a training seminar about active shooters. All the Boardman principals were sent to the seminar.

"We aren't arming our administrators, but simply training them on what to do ahead of time," Lazzeri said.

The district is also working on a COPS grant for $67,000 with a match that will help with safety issues.

He also met with State Rep. Ron Gerberry during the holiday break and told him Boardman does not want to see administrators carrying guns. He suggested to Gerberry that more mental health services are needed and trained police officers should be placed in every Ohio school. He said that should be paid for by the state.

"From the time an incident happens until it's over is three to four minutes," Lazzeri said. "The response time for a police officer is three to four minutes. If the officer is on site it would, first, discourage a shooter and second, it would allow for a person in the building who is trained and can deal with a situation immediately."

As for security systems, Lazzeri said Boardman tried for a bond issue in 2007 and 2008 that would have included replacing entrances in every building by having access only through the school's office. Unfortunately, those bond issues were defeated.

Lazzeri said the elementary and middle schools have been secured with a buzz-in system. Only the high school does not yet have one. Prior to the passage of the levy in November, the district did obtain a buzz-in system for the high school and it will be installed shortly.

One system that does work well in Boardman schools is the key fob. Each staff member and administrator has a key fob to gain entrance into their building. Except for Lazzeri and a few district personal, the key fobs are only operational at the assigned building. A teacher from West Boulevard could not use the key fob to gain access to the middle schools for example.

Even with the buzz-in systems, officers in the schools and continuing education, the key is still having a well-trained staff and students. He said when students are aware of what to look for and how to react, it can make a difference. That coupled with a solid crisis plan goes a long way at keeping Boardman schools safe for the more than 5,000 students who are delivered to school every day.

Lazzeri said Boardman School District has been meeting regularly on security issues, way before the incident in Newtown, Conn.

"The only good thing that came out of Newtown is the heightened awareness," Lazzeri said. "It makes you aware that it can happen anywhere."



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