Worthington Schools Assistant Superintendent Randy Banks said he is proud of the way students responded to recent incidents, including one student bringing a gun to school, but district leaders always are looking for ways to improve.
Last week, at 10:08 a.m. Feb. 5, a student alerted staff members at Worthington Kilbourne High School to a video that had been posted on social media of Domonic Michael Keaton, 18, of northwest Columbus holding a handgun at the school, according to a Columbus Division of Police report.
The student forwarded a screenshot of the video to staff members, and Keaton was found with the handgun.
Keaton faces a charge of carrying a concealed handgun for which ammunition was ready at hand, a fourth-degree felony, according to Franklin County Municipal Court records.
He was arraigned Feb. 6 and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15, according to court documents. His bond was set for $100,000.
Denise Alex-Bouzounis, a Columbus police spokeswoman, said more charges might be added as the investigation proceeds.
A student who brings a gun to school also could face discipline up to expulsion from school for one year, according to a district handbook.
The Feb. 5 incident is one of a few threats reported by Worthington Schools in less than two years.
On Jan. 29, a week before Keaton was arrested, threats were called into Kilbourne and nearby McCord Middle School at different times. Both buildings are off Hard Road in Columbus.
In March 2018, a Worthington Kilbourne Middle School student was charged with a second-degree felony for inducing panic. Classmates had heard the student discussing bringing a gun to school and making a "big impact," and investigators decided the statements "seemed to be a credible threat," Sgt. Jim Moran said at the time.
In October 2017, a Thomas Worthington student was arrested after he brought a loaded handgun to school. The student was arrested without incident and was charged with possession of a deadly weapon in a school safety zone, a fifth-degree felony, as well as carrying a concealed weapon and inducing panic, both first-degree misdemeanors.
Banks said he doesn't know there are specific explanations for any incident that has occurred, but he believes the district is doing a better job communicating these issues to the community so parents can have discussions with their children.
He said parents often will "circle back around" and provide more information to the district about the incidents.
As for the most recent incident, Banks praised the student who forwarded the image to staff members.
"We feel really good that our kids feel connected to staff and did the right thing," he said.
He said after the gun was reported, district and building administrators, including the director of secondary education, Neil Gupta, met with the rest of the staff to provide an update. Students were informed by staff members at a separate meeting, he said.
Banks said he and the same district leaders have made plans to meet with and make themselves available to parents who might have questions or concerns. He said they have had several meetings with parents after the incident and they met with about 70 people.
Going forward, Banks said, district leaders are preparing to make improvements with a focus on students' mental health.
"The elementary school guidance counselors that will be added this summer will be a big help," he said.
Previously, full-time guidance counselors were available only at the middle school and high school levels.
One full-time guidance counselor will be added to each elementary school starting in August, Banks said. They have been available only part-time in the past, he said, and the addition already was in process, not in response to the recent incident.
Banks said all the district's middle schools and high schools have multiple full-time counselors on staff to help students.
Meanwhile, Worthington Kilbourne's school resource officer, who is with the Columbus division, played a role in the arrest of Keaton and was helpful, he said. The SRO is from Columbus because the school is in the city's boundaries.
Worthington added school resource officers to both of its high schools at the beginning of the 2018 school year. In June, the school board voted to reverse a longstanding policy on SROs, putting full-time officers on school grounds for the first time.
Banks said district leaders also have made changes to safety plans, with the addition of an app on all smartphones owned by staff members that will take them through safety procedures instead of a flip chart.
These measures also were not taken in response to the incidents, he said.
Banks said safety teams of staff members and a parent have been established at every building. They are responsible for reviewing building safety plans and addressing concerns.
Every staff member also has completed active-shooter training, he said.
In March, Banks said, staff members will be trained to render aid in a bleeding emergency before first responders arrive.
He said district leaders also meet regularly with first responders to see how they can improve their safety plans, and they work to partner with police.
"We're very open to suggestions, whether that be from first responders or our community on how we can keep kids safe," he said.