School threats costly

Published 10:02 am Monday, March 28, 2016

HAMILTON (AP) — As the number of school threats increases, the financial and emotional costs are also going up.

There were more than 800 shooting and bomb threats at K-12 schools during the first half of the 2014-2015 school year, Ken Trump, president of the Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services, told the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News recently.

Ohio had 64 of those threats. School threats are up nearly 160 percent from last school year nationwide, Trump said, and schools have responded by heightening security measures that often take away from class time and hinder personnel and peace of mind.

Email newsletter signup

“Rumors and misinformation typically spreads like wildfire on social media, fueling anxiety in the school community. The anxiety can persist over days and even weeks,” said Trump.

The newspaper said most school officials agree that bolstering security and responding to more school threats have increased financial costs significantly in recent years.

Hamilton school officials say security costs amount to more than $500,000. The district has a $110 million yearly operating budget.

The costs to each individual school system are difficult to track, as Ohio’s 613 public school districts each have different operating budgets. Security upgrades —— such as mechanical, structural and communication improvements — are each funded differently, too, and may use money from local taxes that are only available at one school system. School buildings also have a wide range of ages and layouts.

Lauren Boettcher, a spokeswoman for Lakota Schools in southwest Ohio, said it’s difficult to measure costs of school threats, but noted there’s disruption to learning in a “trickle-down effect.”

Administrators have to focus attention and energy on the situation. Students and staff become distracted from their classroom routines and lessons. Parents sometimes remove their child from class, resulting in less instructional time.