(Ohio) – The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) recently released its 2020 Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) Annual Report which demonstrates its ongoing commitment to school security during the COVID-19 pandemic when school threats and vulnerabilities shifted.
“Ohio is fortunate to have a dedicated team that places school safety as a top priority every single day,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “Even during these unprecedented times, the OSSC remains ahead of constantly evolving safety concerns. The resources and guidance the center provides to schools are invaluable.”
In 2020, the OSSC and its partners supported communities in navigating the new educational landscape with a continuing but evolving, focus on safety. Because COVID-19 required many schools in 2020 to rely on virtual learning instead of in-person classroom instruction, the OSSC established a “Speak Up, Save Lives” campaign to increase exposure to the OSSC’s free 24-hour anonymous reporting system, the Safer Ohio School Tip Line.
“Before the pandemic, students may have had outlets within their schools to voice their concerns about bullying and other issues, but the pandemic led to the loss of that in-person connection,” said ODPS Director Tom Stickrath. “Through the OSSC’s work to promote the Safer Ohio School Tip Line and get it into more schools, we were able to better ensure that students knew there was a line of communication open to them.”
In addition to the Tip Line and “Speak Up, Save Lives” campaign, the OSSC has provided training and guidance for schools to combine their COVID-19 procedures with their emergency management plans. The OSSC also provided a virtual forum for safety partners on the Governor’s Ohio School Safety Working Group to discuss new gaps created during the pandemic and how to ensure information sharing of available resources.
School safety programs not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, including emergency management training and tabletop training toolkits, were adapted to virtual formats, making them accessible and continuing to bring together safety partners.
Governor DeWine established the OSSC in August 2019 as part of his STRONG Ohio plan to assist local schools and law enforcement in preventing, preparing for, and responding to threats and acts of violence, including self-harm, through a holistic, solutions-based approach to improving school safety.
In 2021, the OSSC will use federal grant funds to develop and implement new resources for schools and first responders including the addition of term-based school safety regional contractors to assist their local schools, expanding and enhancing the Tip Line, hosting a virtual school safety summit, and developing a virtual continuing education academy for school resource officers.
For more information on the OSSC, visit https://ohioschoolsafetycenter.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/ossc