School district hires full-time security officer

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In an effort to beef up security, the Symmes Valley Local School District has hired a full-time officer to patrol its buildings.

Called a safety and security administrator, Joe Ferguson, a former investigator with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, was hired following a vote by the school’s board of education.

Chris Thompson, president of the board, said there haven’t been any incidents in the district to prompt the hiring, but with the district being so rural, it takes a long time for law enforcement to drive all the way to the schools.

Email newsletter signup

“If something were to happen, it would take too long to get anyone out there,” Thompson said. “We’ve never run into any problems to speak of, but all it takes is one time. To me, I have two kids there and it makes me nervous knowing what could happen.”

Jeff Saunders, superintendent, agreed, saying having a first responder on campus full-time would help the sheriff’s office, which is just too far away.

“We looked into this very carefully,” Saunders said. “The fact of the matter is, if something were to happen here, they (sheriff’s office) just can’t get out here fast enough.”

Saunders also said the district has a good relationship with the sheriff’s office and its resource officer, Scott Wilson, who patrols the school on a rotating basis with other campuses throughout the county.

“Scott Wilson will still be a vital part of our security here,” Saunders said. “We decided to hire extra help on our own. We felt it was important to have the same person every day so the kids got to know him.”

Saunders said Ferguson will be armed while on campus and if a situation arose, he would be able to detain a suspect until the sheriff’s office arrived to arrest the suspect. Ferguson will also be in charge of the district’s crisis plan.

“We hope and pray he never has to be utilized,” Saunders said. “His main job is to patrol the campus throughout the day, be familiar with the students. Be at different places and different times.”

Thompson said while a couple of school districts have decided to arm certain teachers, he said that wasn’t an option for Symmes Valley.

“They don’t need that added responsibility,” he said.

Saunders said the officer would likely begin the first week in October.