You likely saw the news yesterday that a student brought a loaded handgun to Thomas Worthington High School. We were very disappointed that the student made this choice. I have received many questions about what happened yesterday and about how we as a school district work to keep all students safe.
Yesterday morning our high school principal received a tip that a student may have a weapon in school. We take every tip seriously and they are immediately investigated. After hearing this information the principal went to the classroom where the student was in class, peacefully removed him from the classroom, and simply asked him about the accusation. The student admitted to having the weapon, and he was turned over to the Worthington Police. In this case, there was no disruption of school, no event that happened in the school, we have no knowledge of any threat nor knowledge of any plan of action. We immediately communicated with all TWHS families.
We have learned that a second TWHS student saw the gun at the beginning of the school day, handled the gun, took a picture of himself with the gun and posted it to social media. Obviously, this was a very poor choice.
As the Superintendent of Schools and as a parent of children in Worthington I sincerely wish we lived in a society where we didn’t have to be concerned about safety. Unfortunately, the ills of our society are present in our community and thus also potentially present in our schools.
In Worthington, we have worked diligently to prepare our schools, our staff members, and even our students should we ever experience 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.
Most importantly, 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. “See Something, Say Something” is more than a slogan. Our students and staff are comfortable talking with one another and it’s students who will most likely be best positioned to alert our staff of potential safety concerns.
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. Every child should feel safe and comfortable at school. If your child has concerns or feels unsafe, please contact any member of our school district staff to discuss these concerns.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent