photo by: Joselyn King
WHEELING – Nationally-known school security expert Kenneth Trump is observing Ohio County Schools this week, and he had a message for board of education members Monday night.
Trump reminded them that most often a school district’s motto for school security is, “When you see something, say something.”
“But you also have to train somebody to do something,” he said.
While school districts have been making physical improvements to school facilities in recent years to improve security – such as installing more cameras — the human element is too often forgotten, according to Trump.
He calls this practice “security theater.”
Trump is President of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments, school emergency planning consultations, crisis school safety communications, litigation consulting and expert witness support, and related school safety and crisis consulting services.
Ohio County Schools has retained Trump to conduct a safety overview of the district.
Trump and associate Chuck Hibbert arrived in Wheeling on Sunday, and spent Monday observing Wheeling Park HIgh School, and speaking with staff and students there. They will continue their work through Friday at other school facilities.
Trump egan the security and emergency management assessment by requesting documents from Ohio County Schools relating to emergency procedures and policies and reviewing them.
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register had a chance to speak with Trump prior to Monday’s board meeting.
“School districts usually focus on the physical security aspects of their buildings, and that is a piece of it,” he said. “But you also have to have a balanced approach and look at the people.
“You can’t look for a quick technology fix for a human problem. Technology is a supplement for the human piece, though people in the community want to see that tangible thing like cameras or metal detectors.”
Trump spoke of visiting one school in the southwest that had installed six panic buttons in the building.
“We asked them if you press one, where does it go to? Who gets the call?” he said. “Nobody knew. They guessed it was border control because they were close to the border with Mexico, but not really. It went to the local police.”
Ohio County Schools is one of many school districts across the nation who have locked their doors and placed buzzers at front entrances to school buildings for those wanting to request entry. Office personnel then are charged with whether or not to allow the person inside.
Trump acknowledges the plan can be effective, but human factors can override the security factor.
“Because people in the office can be so busy, they can unconsciously press the button and let you in,” he said.
He spoke of one incident where a man came to a school building with plans to shoot his wife, who was a teacher there. He attempted to enter the building through outside doors, which were all locked.
Then he came to the front door and was recognized as a family member. He was permitted inside, then went and killed the teacher and a student.
“It wasn’t the hardware that was the issue because he wasn’t able to get inside,” Trump explained. “It was their procedures and policy of staff and visiting family at the school, and not following written policies.”
Trump plans to meet with staff and the safety teams at each building this week.
“We’re going to look at what’s on paper, and what’s in practice,” he said. “If there is a disconnect, that can create a greater safety risk.
“We are going to ask, ‘Are you doing what your paper says you are doing? And are you prepared to do it?”
Trump added it was “nice to come in where there is not a crisis,” as most times he is brought in to observe school districts only after there has been a security incident.
He commended Superintendent Kim MIller and Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones for being proactive.
“It may sound simple, but it is not done a lot,” he said. “People don’t want to do things like this. It makes them nervous to have those evaluations. It is good leadership when you have people say we’re thinking we’re on the right track, but how can we improve?”
Board members on Monday asked Trump if there would be a written report of his findings. He said yes, and that the report would be provided to Miller and Jones “for their dissemination.” He expects the report to take six to eight weeks to complete.
Also during Monday’s board meetings, members approved the retirements for a number of staff members.
– William Cornforth is retiring effective June 30 as a speech and theater teacher and speech team coach after 44 years on the job.
– Stacy Dietz, a former teacher and principal who now serves as a Community In Schools liaison, is retiring effective March 1 after 25 years with Ohio County Schools.
– Karen Gordon is retiring effective June 30 as a county-wide supervisory aide/paraprofessional assigned to WPHS. She has been employed by the school district for 45 years.
The board will next convene at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 in the new learning center area at WPHS. A Local School Improvement Council meeting will precede the board meeting at 5 p.m.
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