On Jan. 29, the breaking news out of Bay High School stopped Westshore residents in their tracks: The school, with 807 students (although 118 are eLearning), was in lockdown. Reports of a possible gun and a standoff stirred a frenzy of speculation (most incorrect) on social media. Parents panicked. Universally, stomachs dropped and a feeling of dread pervaded the community.
It was the best possible outcome at the end of the day. There was no gun. No one was hurt. An anonymous caller saying there was a gun in the school was responsible for the mayhem. As of publication, no one had been arrested.
Superintendent Jodie Hausmann, Police Chief Kathy Leasure and School Resource Officer Ben Kitchen should all be highly commended for their calm approach to the crisis. Their level-headed professionalism kept emotions in check. Yet they all knew what had to be done — and they did it. We truly believe positive results flow from reactions at the top of a chain of command. School district officials and Bay police put their crisis training in place. Hausmann, Leasure and Principal Jason Martin allowed their teams to rise to the occasion. This level of competency, will and skill deserves our highest praise.
The school district’s open line of communication, through Communications Director Karen Uthe Semancik, put out steady, calm and consistent messaging to counteract the hysteria on social media and squashed rumors and false information with facts.
“The District is grateful that no credible threat or weapons were found, and that all students are safe and accounted for,” was the message distributed the day after the incident. “The District is thankful for all faculty and staff who quickly pivoted to their emergency training to keep our students safe, and for our students and families who were brave, patient and followed directives.
“Bay Village Schools is extremely grateful for the Bay Village Police Department, who, after receiving the threat, swiftly went into motion to lock down Bay High School and conduct a systematic search. The District is also grateful for the support the following law enforcement agencies provided BVPD: Ohio State Highway Patrol; Cleveland Metroparks Police; North Olmsted Police; Avon Lake Police; Westlake Police; Rocky River Police; The Westshore Enforcement Bureau; Bay Village Fire Department; and Bay Village Auxiliary Police.”
Nationwide, schools saw 279 violent incidents during the 2017-18 school year, up from 131 the previous year, according to a study by the Educator's School Safety Network, a national nonprofit school safety organization. The study found that the most frequent violent incident was finding a gun on campus, followed by shootings and thwarted attacks.
Any increases in violence is most likely because not enough preventive action is taken until it's too late, according to the report. I think, in this incident, Bay High School and the Bay Village City School District can’t be faulted. They obviously discussed and planned for situations which, unfortunately, were likely. One happened. And it was dealt with by employing logic, compassion and, hopefully, with the least amount of negative impact on students, parents and the community.
Bay Village is a welcoming, friendly and “small-town that is actually a big-town” city. Ugliness reared its nasty head. And Bay Village officials reacted with calm professionalism.
Kudos to all. And thank heavens the ending was a good one.