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Symposium to address school safety
April 25, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
On Monday, April 29, local law enforcement and community members will meet to discuss how to keep our schools safe and how to respond if an incident occurs.

One of the keynote speakers at the School Safety Symposium will be John-Michael Keyes, director of the “I Love U Guys” Foundation. That was the last message Emily Keyes texted to her parents on Sept. 27, 2006 when a gunman entered the Platte Canyon High School in Colorado and took seven girls hostage. Emily lost her life in that incident.

The foundation was created by Emily’s parents to present educational programs and offer positive actions to families, schools, communities and government entities. The goal is to restore and protect the joy of youth.

The Standard Response Protocol classroom response to school incidents developed by the foundation has been presented at hundreds of events, conferences and venues. And it’s been adopted by school districts and agencies in several states.

Monday’s School Safety Symposium is sponsored locally by the Scottsbluff Police Department, in conjunction with the Gering Police Department, Scotts Bluff County Sheriff, Scottsbluff School District and Western Nebraska Community College. In addition to John-Michael Keyes, speakers will include Sgt. A.J. DeAndrea of the Arvada Police Department and retired team lead of the Jefferson County Regional SWAT unit; and John McDonald, director of security and emergency management for the Jefferson County School District.

Two sessions of the School Safety Symposium are planned for Monday. The session for the public is scheduled for 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Midwest Theater in downtown Scottsbluff. A second session for law enforcement professionals will be from 1 – 5 p.m. at the Harms Advanced Technology Center on the WNCC campus.

Keyes said a critical part of safe schools is the classroom response to an incident at the school. At the symposium, he will discuss his Standard Response Protocol and how students, staff and first responders can get involved when there’s no time to waste.

Capt. Kevin Spencer of the Scottsbluff Police Department said the program has been here in the past and he was very impressed with the material covered.

“Our hope now is to take it a step further and develop a unified response for area law enforcement as well as all the schools in the area,” Spencer said. “This training can be used in many different situations, not just random acts of violence. It’s easy to understand, practical and common sense information we can use when an emergency occurs, such as a weather disaster when shelter is needed.”

The goal of the symposium is to use productive discussion to provide actionable items that school districts and other agencies can implement right away to help make our schools a safer place for children and adults alike.
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