Saturday, August 14, 1999

Talawanda schools pass safety audit

Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — A recent safety audit of Talawanda schools turned up some minor problems, but consultants say the schools are safe for children.

        A two-member team from Dayton's Safety School Consortium presented its findings in a community meeting this week. On Tuesday, the team will present the report to the school board at its 7:30 p.m. meeting at the middle school.

Visits and talks
        Jim Brytus and C. Benjamin Kirby reviewed school discipline records; talked to students, community members and teachers; visited the schools — sometimes incognito; and studied crisis plans in May at the request of Superintendent Susan Cobb and the school board. The audit cost the school board $6,500.

        “We found some problems, but overall you have a safe situation for kids,” Mr. Brytus said. “No place is immune (from violence), but schools are still the safest place to be.”

        Nearly three-fourths of the students interviewed by the team said they would share information about potentially violent situations with staff members rather than their parents, a finding that both surprised and pleased the team.

        Students reported they felt safe at school, didn't think violence such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado would ever happen in their school, and were opposed to both dress codes and the installation of metal detectors.

        One strength the consultants found was the peer mediation program at the middle school. They recommended it be continued at Talawanda High School.

        “The kids that are in peer counseling are not (isolated) or geeks or anything,” Mr. Brytus said.

        Other strengths found were:

        • A good relationship between the Oxford Police Department and the schools.

        • A detailed crisis plan at the high school that should be copied at other buildings.

        • Visible administrators who students say pop up unexpectedly.

        • Suspension and expulsion rates proportional to student enrollment, with students knowing consequences of violating rules.

        • Good facilities, except Stewart Elementary, which the consultants described as an easy target for vandalism.

        The team recommended that the district develop some sort of uniform sign-in/badge procedure for visitors entering school buildings. More doors at the high school should be locked once classes begin; and crisis plans at all buildings should be rehearsed, with staff members learning code words that designate a problem in the building.

        Also recommended was a better two-way communications system between classrooms and the office at the high school and at Stewart, two-way radios for key personnel in all schools, and better lighting at Stewart.Consultants said students were uneasy with the idea of periodically bringing trained dogs into the building to search for alcohol or other drugs.

        “Kids don't want search dogs. We would recommend it as a deterrent,” Mr. Brytus said.


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