August 22, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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Local schools react after Connecticut massacre

School districts throughout Medina County are stepping up police patrols this week to reassure students and parents emotionally wrenched by the Newtown, Conn., killings.

The Medina Police Department posted on its Facebook page that its officers, along with Montville and Medina township police, would be assigned to each Medina school throughout the school day.

Andre Hunt, 13, of Medina, lights candles in memory of the victims of the Newtown, Conn. shooting during a prayer vigil Monday at United Church of Christ, Congregational, in Medina. About 55 people attended the service. (KIERA MANION-FISCHER / GAZETTE)

“These assignments are a part of a precautionary strategy to reassure the students, parents and teachers of our commitment to their safety,” the post said. “There are no threats.”

In Brunswick, starting today, an officer will be assigned to patrol each building in Brunswick Schools until winter break, which starts this weekend.

“We had a lot of reaction from parents following the Connecticut shooting and we decided to increase our patrols,” Brunswick Police Chief Carl DeForest said.

DeForest said the additional school patrols will resume again in the new year following winter break.

Wadsworth Police Chief Randy Reinke said police have received numerous inquiries from parents about security at the city’s schools.

Reinke said patrols would be increased at both public and private schools, along with pre-schools and daycare centers. He said officers wouldn’t necessarily be there throughout the entire school day. He said the goal was to reassure students.

“I know it reassures a lot of the parents, but to me, it’s more important to the kids,” he said.

The superintendents from Black River, Buckeye, Highland and Cloverleaf schools said sheriff’s deputies have been checking in more at their schools this week.

Black River Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said a Medina County sheriff’s deputy was on campus Monday morning, and an Ashland County sheriff’s deputy usually patrols most days of the week.

Buckeye Superintendent Brian Williams said there were increased patrols at the schools Monday, and they will be continued this week. Buckeye Schools also are collecting donations for the victims of the Connecticut shooting.

Highland Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said in an email to parents that a sheriff’s deputy was at each of the schools Friday afternoon as an added precaution.

Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said a sheriff’s deputy is posted at the Cloverleaf campus during school hours and that he was at the elementary school Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

Community reaction

Reaction on the Medina Police Department’s Facebook page to the increased presence at the schools was mixed. Some parents praised the department while others posted comments saying they were concerned the extra patrols only would be for the next week.

A few called for arming teachers with guns.

Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said the schools are scheduled to go on Christmas break after Friday, which would give the police and the schools time to decide what to do next.

So far, the increased police presence at the schools won’t require paying for overtime, Berarducci said.

“We’ve decided that for the week, our priority is having them in schools,” he said. “After this week, we’ll reassess and see where we’re at.”

Berarducci said the department already has officers permanently assigned to the schools: one for the high school, another for the district’s two middle schools and a third for the seven elementary schools.

Also, officers patrol the schools at the beginning and end of the school day.

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the department doesn’t have enough officers to be at every school building every day.

“Our staffing doesn’t permit us to do that around the clock, around the year,” the mayor said. “We’re trying to address the fear and concern in the community as well as provide a safe learning environment.”

Medina City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss how “to prevent a tragic event such as Newtown from happening.”

Residents are encouraged to attend and comment at the meeting, which will be at 5:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at City Hall, 132 N. Elmwood Ave.

Old wounds

Dr. Ann Bauer, chair of Cleveland State University’s Counseling Administration Department, said an important part of preventing these tragedies is being aware of the emotional health of the students.

“It’s up to the teachers, principals and school counselors to watch for students who are in emotional pain,” she said.

While not every depressed student will bring a gun to school, Bauer said studies show a majority of school shooters have attempted or contemplated suicide.

Bauer played a role in helping students heal after a school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., in March 1998. She worked as a grief counselor after the March 1998 incident in which two students, an 11-year-old and 13-year-old boy, pulled the fire alarm at the school and ran out into the woods, where they lay in wait and shot at students and teachers as they left the building.

Four students and a teacher were killed and 10 students were wounded.

Bauer said Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary brought up old feelings she experienced in Jonesboro. She said students at Chardon High School, where three students were fatally shot in February, will experience the same emotional stress because of the Connecticut killing.

“It’s like you have an old war wound,” she said. “You carry that story with you — the sights and sounds.”

Schools on alert

The Connecticut killings have put schools on alert across the nation.

At least three Ohio communities reacted quickly to possible threats against schools made on social media on the Internet.

Officials in Willoughby, in Geauga County in Northeast Ohio, notified parents of Twitter postings saying a gun and bomb would be brought to a middle school. No evidence was found to substantiate the threat.

In Hamilton County, in southwest Ohio, an 18-year-old man was charged with inducing panic Sunday after a Facebook post said he was sick of the comments about the shooting, and that they made him want to shoot kids himself.

In Springfield, between Dayton and Columbus, sheriff’s deputies provided extra security at Shawnee High School on Monday after a student posted on Facebook that he could “do better” than Friday’s shooting that left 28 people dead, including 20 children ages 6 and 7.

Deputies questioned him, but he was not charged.

Gazette reporter Loren Genson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.