Columbus City Schools partners with Homeland Security to help curb gun violence

Columbus City Schools is working with Homeland Security to help end gun violence (WSYX/WTTE)

The recent death of an upcoming Columbus City Schools eighth grader prompted emotional words from the interim superintendent at a school board meeting this month.

"Tamara Dodson was an outspoken 8th grader at Champion Middle School. Her voice was silenced by a bullet," Dr. John Stanford told the seven members of the school board September 4th.

Dodson died in August when police say a 16-year-old boy shot her with a gun. Officers say the young suspect claimed he thought the gun's safety was on.

"At no time, no place, no circumstances, should you as a young person have a gun in your hands for any reason," demanded Dr. Stanford. "The madness over teens and guns must come to an end."

Scoring Our Schools found more than 40 teenagers died due to a gunshot since 2015. More than a dozen of those kids were enrolled at a Columbus City school. Quentin Smith, 16, was a sophomore at West High School when he was gunned down last December. His mother Lisa White-Lavender told Scoring Our Schools that her son was skipping school.

"He said, 'Ma, you don't have to take me to school today.' He said, 'My friend is taking me to school today,'" she said.

Hours later, staff from West High School called White-Lavender to tell her Smith had been shot.

"Quentin was in the one vehicle. The guys who killed him was in the front vehicle.," his mother said. "They stopped the car and they started shooting in the car. Quentin was the only one who got shot and he got shot in the neck."

Dr. Stanford said he wants to identify students who carry a gun to help curb the gun violence. He told the board he partnered with the Ohio Department of Homeland Security this year and registered with the Safer Schools hotline. Each student was given the tip line number to call in information on threats, bullying, suicide and guns.

"Why? Why is it so important for you to carry a gun?" asked Dr. Stanford openly to school board members and the public.

To this point, the hotline has received more than 20 tips statewide since the beginning of the school year. Dr. Stanford also stated during a safety summit that Sandy Hook experts will conduct school threat assessment training next month to district staff.

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