Preparing for the unthinkable

wlA little over a week ago a seventeen year old student at West Liberty-Salem High School brought a gun to school and shot a classmate with the apparent intent to harm others.  I don’t have any inside information regarding what happened other than what I have read each day in the Columbus Dispatch.  If what I have read is correct, it sounds like several students and several staff members in West Liberty-Salem acted heroically and potentially averted greater harm.  I’m also thankful to read that it looks like the student who was injured is making progress towards recovery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

We live in a society where senseless gun violence continues to be a significant public issue.  I have friends who grew up in West Liberty and I don’t believe there are many nicer small towns anywhere in the United States.  It’s a close knit community and it proves that if incidents of violence can occur in West Liberty they could occur anywhere.

In Worthington we have worked diligently to prepare our schools, our staff members, and even our students should we ever experience such a senseless act.  Several years ago all Worthington Schools were modified to include secure entrances and to make sure the perimeter of every school is locked throughout the student day.  Our staff members have all been trained in the ALICE (run-hide-fight) incident response system and our staff members have worked with students to respond in a similar fashion should it ever be necessary.  For each school we have established “rally points” where students would go should such an event occur.

Every school principal in Worthington Schools carries a walkie-talkie.  By simply changing the channel they have direct access to the Worthington Police dispatcher which can immediately send police to the school.  In addition, every school office is equipped with a panic button that goes directly to 911.  Finally, Worthington has a safe schools hotline where students, parents or community members can anonymously leave tips should they suspect an act of potential violence. 1 (866) 871-0926.

School safety in Worthington is a three pronged approach.  Secure buildings and strong plans with accompanying training are important but we recognize that many events are triggered by mental health issues or by feelings of isolation.  Our third prong of school safety is attempting to help our students deal with their mental health needs.  In Worthington we employ three full-time mental health specialists that work with our students as well as a partnership for therapeutic counseling services where we refer students and families to North Community Counseling.  Lastly, our staff members are committed to providing school cultures where every student knows they have a trusted adult in their school that cares about them and believes in them.

In Worthington the safety of our students and staff is our primary concern.  We’re attempting to be vigilant every day and we need every community member to partner with us.  My hope and prayer is that our community never has to deal with a situation like West Liberty-Salem is dealing with.  If we ever do, I hope we react as well as they seemed to.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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