Better training for students and staff is producing safer Groveport Madison schools, according to Richard Playko, the district's assistant principal for safety.
In a recent presentation to the school board, Playko said he would put his schools up against any in the Ohio Division for student safety.
He told the board there have been significant reductions in violations of the rules regarding dress code, bullying, insubordination and the use of electronic devices.
As an example, he said the number of disruptions dropped from 180 to just over 80 this year, and fights between students at the high school dropped from 29 last year to 20 this year.
"In the middle schools, disruption is way down this year from 70 to almost none, and fighting is also down," he said. "The elementary schools have also seen both of these go way down to almost zero.
"I know there are perceptions out there, and certain groups that feel our schools are unsafe, but we are a very good school district and work very hard to emphasize safety," Playko said.
"We have 1,500 kids in our high school that was built for 900, and I'd match it up with any other in our league."
Playko credited the lower numbers to better training, and improved policies and protocols.
"We do a lot of training with students and staff. We've invested in an online training program that about every four months we run a health and safety program on," he said.
The district has been approved for two state grants that will provide additional safety equipment, Playko said, including police radios and a total lockdown system that will allow all school building doors to remain locked all the time, with a buzzer system for allowing visitor access to the buildings.
He said officials are hoping to find more grant money that could be used to update cameras and digital video recorders.
"Unfortunately, we've had rumors that a lot of the cameras are currently down, but they're in good shape," Playko said. "However, the DVRs are on the downside so we're updating those."
He said the lack of bus transportation this year for high school students was a major safety concern, but thanks to the efforts of parents and staff, there haven't been any injuries and he believes people have settled into a routine.
"Dealing with no busing was a challenge, but has gotten better every week," Playko said. "Overall, I just really feel we're going in the right direction and our schools are as safe as anywhere else."