Ohio Department of Homeland Security Visits Lakota

Ohio Department of Homeland Security Visits Lakota
Posted on 02/03/2020
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WE are Safety Minded features group visiting Lakota from Ohio Dept. of Homeland SecurityRepresentatives from Ohio’s Department of Homeland Security were at Lakota on Jan. 24 to speak with district administrators and students about school safety. 

In August, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order establishing the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) within the Homeland Security division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The purpose of the OSSC is to assist schools and local first responders in preventing, preparing for and responding to threats and acts of violence.

“The safety of our students and staff is always our number one priority,” said Superintendent Matthew Miller. “We are proud that Lakota has been chosen to be a part of the State’s regional listening sessions.” Miller serves on the Governor’s Ohio School Safety Working Group, which is part of the OSSC. The group has been created to advise the OSSC on current issues and trends regarding school safety.


As part of the discussions at schools, the agency wants to better understand what marketing strategies are most effective in reaching students and administrators with regards to the resources available to schools. Emily Torok, acting administrator of the Ohio School Safety Center, said, “We want to better tailor the resources we have at the School Safety Center for the students to increase participation and increase overall awareness of school safety practices.” One example of the resources available is the SaferOH tip line, which Lakota began using in 2018.

Torok and her team first met with district leaders to discuss safety measures in place at Lakota, including mental health resources. “When discussing school safety, it is imperative that mental health is part of the discussion,” Miller said. Lakota’s partnership with MindPeace has brought dedicated mental health counselors to 15 of its buildings already. By May, counselors will be in all of the district’s schools. Hope Squad, the peer-to-peer suicide prevention program at both Lakota East and West high schools, was also discussed in detail.

Students from Liberty Junior and Lakota East were asked to provide feedback about marketing materials the OSSC uses to promote its safety tipline. In addition, they were part of a brainstorming session about future ways to engage students about school safety, including using social media. Eighth-grader Bukari Miles was very supportive of using social media to reach students. “Kids spend hours a day on their phones on social media & if it’s on there, they’ll see it.” He’s glad that the OSSC is working with Lakota to promote the safety tip line more directly to students. “Lakota is pretty big & it’s important that we know about our safety resources.”

East students also took the opportunity to speak to the guests about their feelings on safety at school. Anne Mathew, a junior at Lakota East and a member of the school’s Hope Squad, feels that there is a definite sense of community in the district...and in the school. After sharing a story of a group of students joining a fellow student who was eating alone in the cafeteria, Mathew said “the need to help has been there for a long time at the school.”

“Lakota students are very passionate about their community,” Torok noted. “They feel very empowered to look out for their peers. Probably the coolest thing we got out of today is that everyone shared basically the same story and that they all feel that they have a good school culture...they feel empowered not only by their peers, but their school administrators as well to be able to take care of each other.”