The effects of a deadly school shooting in Florida are being felt in the Olentangy Local School District as students plan walkouts while administrators and parents debate new safety measures.
A gunman Feb. 14 killed 17 and wounded more than a dozen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy reignited debates about gun control and school-security measures in communities around the country.
Students at Olentangy's three high schools have announced plans to stage a 17-minute walkout Wednesday, March 14, to honor the victims.
Nathan McCallum, a junior organizing the walkout at Liberty High School, said he doesn't want people to "become numb" to school shootings and consider them inevitable. He said he was devastated by media reports of the tragedy in Florida.
"This was the breaking point for me of wanting to react and do something about it," he said.
McCallum said he hopes the walkouts lead to "discussion within our community" about gun violence.
Although a social-media post by McCallum advertising the walkout lists "stricter gun laws" as a goal, he said the organizers have not endorsed any specific legislative actions on firearms.
The Olentangy Local School District on March 5 sent a message to parents to alert them about the planned walkouts. The message states district administrators and school resource officers will be present for the duration of the walkouts.
Although students will not be punished for participating in the protests, the message states the walkouts are not endorsed or sponsored by Olentangy's administration per district policy.
Plans for the student-led protests came together as district administrators pondered what new precautions could make Olentangy's school buildings safer.
Jennifer Iceman, the district's assistant director of human resources, on March 1 reviewed recommendations from Olentangy's Community Safety Committee with the Olentangy school board.
"The safety committee does feel that the district needs the addition of several positions, specifically a director of safety and security for the school district and potentially an additional safety specialist or two," she said.
Iceman said the committee also has spent significant time reviewing specialized locking devices for district classrooms.
At the same March 1 school board meeting, two members of the public gave the board their suggestions.
Jason Gerard of Orange Township said the district could limit the number of public entryways at school buildings and install turnstiles in the remaining entrances.
He also advocated for more cameras and security personnel at district buildings and asked the board to study the possibility of installing metal detectors.
"We don't want to make our schools into prisons ... but I do think (metal detectors) are something we should look at," he said.
Michael McCann of Orange Township said the district needs to consider letting staff with concealed-carry permits bring firearms to school.
"You currently have Olentangy teachers and administrators that have gone and gotten their concealed-carry permit and want that fighting chance," he said. "(They) love our kids and want to defend them. You simply need to give them the permission to do so."
Olentangy Superintendent Mark Raiff said district officials have received multiple suggestions from district residents and others in the wake of the tragedy in Florida. He said no idea would be immediately discounted.
"We're going through a process of examining all of the suggestions," he said. "We're going to vet them all."
Raiff said even expensive solutions will be considered by the district's administration.
"Cost won't be the determining factor ... if it means keeping our kids safe," he said.