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Hamilton City Schools wants more armed officers, considers ban on backpacks to up security

Posted: 4:30 AM, Jun 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-05 11:52:12Z

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Students, teachers and staff who enter any of Hamilton City Schools' 13 buildings do so every day under the glass eyes of 820 security cameras. At one point, that might have been enough to set administrators' minds at ease about student safety.

It's not anymore.

"It used to be fire, earthquake, tornadoes," superintendent Larry Knapp said. "Now it's everything from dealing with intruders to school shootings. In this town, we have a big concern about chemical spills."

Knapp's district is committed to doing more for student safety, he said, and it's implementing new procedures to make sure its schools are as secure as possible in case of an attack like the ones that claimed students' lives in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas.

Those procedures include sending emergency response information to parents -- "What you don't want in a safety crisis situation is for all the parents to come to the school," he said -- and training every staff member to effectively treat bleeding from injuries such as gunshot and knife wounds.

Hamilton City Schools will also work with first responders to "minimize vulnerability at access points" like school entrances. Some of the suggestions are about the buildings, like changing the placement of cameras and adding film to vulnerable windows.

Others are about people. Knapp said he wants more armed officers providing security to Hamilton schools, more mental health professionals within reach for students and more students participating in anti-bullying efforts. The district is also considering a ban on backpacks.

"That's a great way to bring something to the school that shouldn't be there, so that's a real consideration for us," he said.

None of these changes would come for free, Knapp acknowledges. He hopes to have a county-wide safety levy for public schools on the November ballot so large-scale changes could begin the following semester.

"That's how quickly we're trying to do this," he said.