Ohio School Districts Permit Police to Aerially Survey Schools for Public Safety

Two Ohio school districts have allowed the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to collect aerial footage of their schools to improve school safety plans.

Andia/UIG via Getty Images

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) largely uses its six drones to document crime scenes and improve search and rescue operations. Its new initiative is to improve public safety by collecting aerial imagery of school buildings to re-assess school safety plans. According to News 5 Cleveland, both Lorain and Avon school districts have opted in to the BCI’s aerial plan of preventative measures in the wake of deadly school shootings. 

The mission here is to provide law enforcement and first responder agencies with as much functional information as possible, for the unfortunately plausible instance that an emergency situation takes place. The aerial imagery is intended to bolster school safety plans, which are required by Ohio law to be on file at every regional school. Currently, Lorain and Avon have decided to collaborate on the optional partnership. 

“Safety doesn’t happen in a reactive way, or needs to happen in a proactive way,” said David Hardy Jr., CEO of the Lorain City School District. Active aerial surveying and imaging for the district has already begun, collecting invaluable data of all included schools. “It was literally a drone that was flying around over our 14 schools at different times, getting different angles,” said Hardy Jr. “It was really kinda cool.”

Unfortunately, when school shootings occur on a regular basis, even the safety protocols that result are disconcerting. Hardy Jr.’s enthusiastic disposition, of course, is merely rooted in a proactive sense that this aerial imaging initiative could potentially help increase safety for the kids he’s meant to protect. Opting in to the BCI’s aerial survey offer, essentially, could save a life. 

“They’re an option for all of us, but we said, ‘You know what? Let’s get out in front o fit. Let’s be first,’” he explained. “It enhanced our security and safety plans…it’s almost night and day difference. We’re able to see how to get in and out of buildings a lot easier and how to move around certain buildings as well.” 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine believes that drones could become an invaluable asset in preventative measures regarding school safety. Conventionally, these preparations were comprised of a basic school layout, which could be used as a blueprint during emergency situations. “Right now, school safety plans must include floor plans, but I believe that aerial photos will be an effective tool to help law enforcement plan for and respond to a violent incident.” 

Unfortunately, it seems we have to completely revamp how to protect our schools. While stronger gun control for people with a history of violence and those clearly suffering from mental illness is surely a way to start, utilizing drone technology to allow schools and law enforcement to react more effectively seems like a reasonable additional method, as well. Hopefully, drone-infused security for schools is one of those use cases that diminishes over time, instead of booming into an industry due to tragically high demand.