Former Chardon teachers continue to work toward change after 2012 school shooting

Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 6:18 PM EDT
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CHARDON, Ohio (WOIO) - February 27, 2012: Three students were killed and three were injured when a gunman opened fire at Chardon High School.

The unthinkable tragedy is a grim reminder of the nightmares for which our schools need to prepare.

“We protect our money. We protect our monuments. We protect our parks, but our kids are our most important and valuable resource in our country and we have to do a better job protecting them,” said Tim Armelli.

Armelli is now retired, but he was teaching at Chardon High School the day of the shooting.

He, along with former Chardon Football Coach Frank Hall and former Principal Andy Fetchick, have been determined since that February day to make a change.

Wednesday, they took their message the Ohio School Safety Summit in Columbus.

“There needs to be layers of protection,” explains Coach Hall, “mental health, training.”

Chardon High School was one of only a few schools before the shooting doing lockdown and safety drills.

Coach Hall said all that practice saved lives, “making sure kids know where to go, staff knows where to go, even under pressure.”

On top of the lockdown drills, there are other options to protect students.

Their advice is that schools incorporate as many as possible.

“You can do all these drills one hundred times, but if you can do other things, put an SRO (school resource officer) in the building, a mental health specialist, better locks on doors, bullet resistant glass - just become more layered,” said Armelli.

Mental health needs to be part of a school’s prevention plan as well.

Fetchick believes taking the stigma away from mental health is opening the door to important conversations.

“What 16-year-old kid wants to step in front of other kids saying they’re struggling? But it’s easier to do now and there are more resources like school counselors,” said Fetchick.

Fetchick said students need to feel comfortable reaching out to an adult when something is wrong.

Armelli, Hall and Fetchick believe in many ways their message is working, that schools are more safe.

But they know there is more work to do.

They continue to ask every new school year, what can we do better and what other resources are out there?