Austin Waller, a fourth-year in mathematics education, was student teaching when a lock down occurred at Westerville South High School on Feb. 23. Credit: Michael Lee | Lantern reporter

Feb. 23 began as a normal day for Austin Waller, a student teacher at Westerville South High School. That started to change in third period, when he heard the lockdown announcement.

“The first alarm that went off was the inflection in the voice that came across the PA announcement, where you could tell this was not an actual drill,” Waller said. “My first reaction was definitely an, ‘Oh crap, this is real, I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ My second thought was, ‘Alright, I have to do anything I possibly can to make sure my students were safe.’”

In the weeks that followed the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people, some schools in central Ohio, such as Westerville South High School, also received threats and went on lockdown or cancelled classes within that same month.

Those incidents didn’t only affect the local schools’ students and staff, but also Ohio State student-teachers at the locations.  

Current and future educators from the College of Education and Human Ecology discussed what Ohio State is doing for its students and peers to prepare and deal with crisis situations.

Tami Augustine, the director of teacher education at Ohio State, said while the university does not have specific classes to prepare students, the department tries to work with school districts’ plans for crisis situations and drills.

“One of the things we have our students do when they first go into a [school] placement is we sort of have these lists of things you should talk to your mentor about,” Augustine said.

Colette Dollarhide, an associate professor in counselor education, said students are taught and go over federal crisis intervention guidelines, which include fire drills and active shooter drills.

“There’s a systematic way to respond, and that systematic way is designed to keep everybody safe,” Dollarhide said.

Augustine said Ohio State faculty also are there for their students emotionally, as those who student teach also have to support their own students emotionally.

“We talk to them about the importance of having a mentor, the importance of having other teachers to talk to about these things, the importance of even going to get ome mental health support and help, because these are stressful situation,” Augustine said. “We talk about how to manage those things on a day-in and day-out basis, so that our students don’t burnout.”

Waller, a fourth-year in mathematics education, said many students in the College of Education found emotional support with peers in their same specialization.

“We always are there to talk to each other about any problems we’re having, whether it’s with [crisis situations] or you know, anything,” Waller said.

Waller said he would like to see Ohio State do two things to help better prepare future educators, one being an improvement to a child psychology course and the other being more training sessions for students.

“I would like to see that course talk more about how children psychologically deal with situations of fear or shock, like what would happen during with a shooting,” Waller said. “Additionally, a lot of school districts provide some sort of training to those teachers about what they should do in those situations, and as student teachers, we aren’t there for those trainings.”

Moving forward, Augustine said she had seen some faculty having conversations on how to fit discussions about school safety in their curriculum.

“[School safety] occupies our students minds, and if we’re going to be responsive to our students, which our faculty want to be, this is something we need to be talking more about,” Augustine said.