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Southview holds safety session with school shooting survivor

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    Logan Cole shares his experience of being shot in the high school restroom during the West Liberty-Salem school shooting.

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    School officials and law enforcement, including the Sylvania Police, attended the Sylvania Schools Safety and Security Committee forum, which hosted survivors from the West Liberty-Salem school shooting.

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    Pointing to his chest where he was shot, West Liberty-Salem Local Schools shooting victim Logan Cole shares his experience with students at Southview High School in Sylvania.

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    Sylvania Police Chief Ray Carroll attends the Sylvania Schools Safety and Security Committee forum.

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For a moment, Logan Cole thought the bullet was a bean bag.

As he fell, possible explanations for the pain in his chest flashed to mind — none rational — until he gathered enough wits to register what had happened: he was in school, and he had been shot.

More than a year has passed since the shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School, in Champaign County, about 45 miles northeast of Dayton, that killed no one but injured Logan, who spent the next two weeks in a hospital. But the incident is still fresh in students’ and teachers’ minds at the school, Principal Greg Johnson said, and the experience continues to teach.

Toledo-area school administrators and resource officers gathered Friday at Southview High School in Sylvania for a closed-door school safety session featuring a panel of representatives from West Liberty-Salem — including Logan, now 18; his father, Ryan Cole; Principal Greg Johnson, and Superintendent of Schools Kraig Hissong.

School officials said the event was closed to the public because sensitive details regarding school security were discussed.

VIDEO: School safety presentation at Southview

Presenters spoke about their experiences, the lessons they learned, and the reasons why they support ALICE training, an active shooter response procedure adopted by many area schools, including Southview High School and West Liberty-Salem.

Since the shooting, Mr. Hissong said the school has added security measures, including door indicator locks to show at a glance whether the door is locked; thumb turns, so anyone inside can lock the door without a key; and a system to barricade doors at night.

Earlier this month, Ely Serna, the teen who shot Logan, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for attempted murder, felonious assault, and inducing panic.

Sylvania Superintendent Adam Fineske and Sylvania police Chief Roy Carroll stressed the value of learning from real experience. Simulated scenarios only teach so much, Chief Carroll said. 

On January 20, 2017, when Logan was a junior, he went to the bathroom to fix his hair before leaving for a mock trial competition. He rounded the corner and saw Serna holding what looked like a gun.

“When I first saw him it really didn’t process,” he said. “Especially at West Liberty — which is a very rural school, not many people go there — you don’t think, ‘This person has a gun.’”

Moments later, Logan felt something strike his chest. He turned away, unable to process what was happening. Then he felt another stab in his back. 

Logan staggered and fell face-first — stunned and unable to process what was happening. He felt his teeth break on the floor. When Serna stepped out, looking for students in the hall, Logan tried to move further into the bathroom. But he struggled to walk, incapacitated by the pain of his wounds.

Then Serna returned. Logan, still conscious, spoke to him. 

“You don’t have to do this any more,” he said. “You don’t have to kill anyone, including yourself.”

Outside, Mr. Johnson and the school’s assistant principal, Andy McGill, had reached the bathroom. Hearing voices inside, they entered, hands raised, and saw Serna, who had paused in a bathroom stall to reload. They exchanged soothing words, and, after several tense moments, Serna slid the gun under the stall partition and surrendered. 

West Liberty-Salem is still in recovery, Mr. Johnson said. Among teachers and students, the principal said, anxiety, depression, stress, and fear have increased noticeably. In the months following the shooting, he came to realize how, when trauma “is so tied to a physical building,” a place can evoke and re-evoke feelings of fear. What results is a different school in a building too much the same. 

“It’s changed us,” Mr. Johnson said. “Every time you go back into that building, you’re reminded of it.”

Ever the optimist, Logan said, “It’s getting easier.”

Contact Lily Moore-Eissenberg at lillianme@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.

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