CHARDON – They are old friends, two men who haven’t been through a war together. But they have been through a school shooting.
“I knew they were gunshots,” says Chardon teacher Tim Armelli, “and, for an instant you just thought, ‘you’re never going to see your wife and kids again.'”
Six years ago, Armelli was in the Chardon High School cafeteria, when a gunman opened fire. He ran to the P-A system to put the school on lockdown.
Coach Frank Hall, who was also in the cafeteria, chased the shooter out into the hall, where the gunman turned and fired at him. “Not sure how far away he was,” Coach Hall recalls, “I dove behind a Pepsi machine.”
Then Hall got up, and gave chase again, until the shooter ran out of the school. Three students were killed that day (Danny Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin, and Russell King, Junior) a fourth was paralyzed (Nick Walczak), and two others were injured less severely. Now, six years later, the two educators say it is past time that the nation does something about school shootings.
“Right now, in our country, we’re not doing anything,” Armelli says, “(and) we protect our monuments, we protect our money, and we don’t protect our kids.”
Armelli is president of the Coach Hall Foundation, and together with other volunteers, they have made it the foundation’s mission to try and put an “SRO” (school resource officer) in every school in the country.
They say having an SRO in schools is something people should be able to agree on – no matter where they stand on the issue of guns in America, or guns in America’s schools. “We can make our schools a thousand times safer if we just say, ‘let’s put an SRO in our building,'” says Hall.
The two men plan to go to Washington later this month, on the heels of a march that has grown out of the most recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida that killed seventeen people. They say it’s not only important that the nation embrace the concept of an SRO, but that it be done correctly. “We feel it needs to be a police officer with specialized training with how to de-escalate a situation in a school,” says Armelli.
But beyond that, the educators say a good SRO helps with preparedness, serves as a first line of defense, and gains the trust of students who may then report any possible threats they may hear.
Hall and Armelli will lobby lawmakers on the issue of SROs – hoping to ride the momentum for change that has arisen since the shootings in Florida.
They also say that Ohio allows school district to put levies on a ballot that are designed only to fund school safety measures, such as hiring SROs. There is now an SRO at Chardon High (there wasn’t at the time of the school shooting), and Hall and Armelli believe having one in every school would help kids feel safer, and believe that their schools do belong to them.
“That’s what we did here at Chardon,” Coach Hall says, “(because) the community came together, and the children came back. Three days later, they came back, and took their school back. And that’s what we want to do with this foundation.”