CINCINNATI -- Education and law enforcement officials met Friday morning to discuss school security and pedestrian safety within the Cincinnati Public Schools district.
Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell outlined the district's three-year strategic plan, which includes efforts promoting health and safety throughout the district.
"We know sometimes health and safety isn't an area we like to talk about," Mitchell said, "but our board had the foresight to be innovative and proactive and weave into the strategic plan very explicitly an entire goal centered around health and safety."
Now a year into the three-year plan, Mitchell said it includes elements meant to address issues of school security, students' mental and emotional health, as well as physical safety in and around school zones throughout the district.
"Every (school) has a mental health provider. In the past our mental health providers have provided intervention only. We are really pushing them about being preventive," Mitchell said.
As for security, Mitchell said the district has added 30 assistant security officers to its team, in addition to using technology to flag students' use of computers and identify potentially problematic behavior.
A part of that approach is a tool called Gaggle, which moniters students' use of Google apps on district-provided computers and tablets.
"It can look at what students write in terms of the language they use in their computer, and it will highlight words for us to be able to make sure that these are words we need to give services to kids because they're experiencing difficulties," Mitchell said.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the resource officers are rigorously trained and must express an interest in working directly with children.
"They don't make a lot of arrests; they're able to find other ways to resolve those situations," Isaac said.
Isaac also said his department is focused on slowing down drivers around school zones.
"We want to make sure every school is a safe zone and we're focused on pedestrian safety and speed," he said. "Not only speed, but distracted driving around our schools. We continue to rely on our crossing guards, and we continue to recruit."
Mitchell said the district will maintain the roster of 100 crossing guards throughout the district.
Pedestrian safety around CPS district campuses reached a fever pitch in 2018, when drivers struck more than a dozen students who were walking to or from school.
Among the 13 students hit by drivers was Gabriella Rodriguez, a student at Gilbert A. Dater High School, less than a mile from Covedale. She was trying to catch her Cincinnati Metro bus to school on Harrison Avenue on the morning of Sept. 10 when two vehicles struck her. She died from her injuries later that day.
"We cannot account for ever single possible thing that can happen," Mitchell said. "What we can do is put safety measures and preventative measures in place, and we learn from incidents and figure out what to do next."