ORRVILLE, Ohio - When it came to a vote for a school board resolution at last month's Orrville City School board meeting to allow a firearm to be carried by a teacher, it may have set a new national precedent for security measures in schools when it was unanimously agreed upon.
But, the Ohio district was not seeking publicity, hoping to create an even more secure school situation there, but an Ohio Revised Code spelled out an open records request had to be honored by the district.
Orrville City Schools Superintendent Jon Ritchie said that while it may appear controversial to those with children in other school districts, there was little opposition to it in this Wayne County district, which is about an hour southwest of Cleveland.
Workers are building a brand new Orrville High School. With that in progress, Ritchie said he felt extra measures were needed after 20 students were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Dec. 14: a school without an available firearm or a school official trained to use one.
"We have state-of-the-art security, but the human element of security is something we clearly wanted to make sure that we addressed," Ritchie said.
The district approached one teacher, whose night job stood out. Bill Yerman, a science teacher, is also employed as a law officer with the nearby Lawrence Township Police Department.
"The fact that Mr. Yerman, being a law enforcement official, we just thought this made perfect sense," Ritchie said.
Ritchie added that Yerman didn't want attention and he turned down all media requests for interviews.
"We approached him, he did not approach us for consideration," Ritchie said.
Orrville resident Nicole Walker drops her son and twin girls off at school each day. She said she's elated with the Orrville Police Department's constant visibility surrounding the school, but having someone inside her children's school following the Newtown school tragedy puts her mind even more at ease.
"I have three of them in the elementary and to have something happen in an elementary school was really scary. It feels safe, it's a good school," Walker said.
Orrville High School junior Stewart Schley had Yerman as a teacher in the past. Schley said Yerman's calm demeanor doesn't worry students. But she does not feel the district should escalate security measures to more armed guards.
"I don't want armed guards at every door. That it makes it seem like a prison. As long as it's one and just for protection," Schley said.
Yerman's unique dual school service position also saves the Orrville school district from hiring security personnel.
"We spent a lot of time looking into this decision. We tried to make sure we took into account all the factors and at the end of the day we weren't interested in this being a news-making item. What we were interested in is doing what's in the best interest of the students entrusted to our care," Ritchie said.