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School districts look at emergency preparedness after Oxford High School shooting

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:03 PM EST
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - In the wake of the Michigan school shooting that killed four and injured seven others, school districts are re-examining their own emergency preparedness plans.

J.P. Guilbault is the CEO of Navigate 360, the company providing the ALICE Training program for school safety that is used across the country.

Guilbault says there is no one-size-fits-all approach for schools, given various building designs and capacities.

Rather, they train staff and students to recognize the signs of a dangerous situation, communicate with local police and the rest of their school community, and consider their response options to increase safety and survivability.

“You’re auto-programmed to deny that there is a real incident occurring, so we are teaching you how to overcome that autoresponse system of denial, and focus on and consider the possibility that you are now in a violent critical situation,” explains Guilbault.

Guilbault also spoke about using technology like cell phones correctly, making sure there are no additional noises in the room that could bring an intruder’s attention to that classroom, and the importance of students listening to the trusted adults in the room.

“What’s most important in schools is that there is training, practice, and preparation,” says Guilbault. “I am confident that lives were saved in Oxford because of the preparation, because of the training, and because of the action of those teachers and students that were in the room. I have no doubt.”

Officials with Roanoke County Public Schools say they have a very close relationship and extensive communication plan with the Roanoke County Police Department, allowing officers full access to buildings, layouts of the classrooms, and regularly performing drills as part of their safety and security plans.

Teachers and students are trained on the warning signs of a possibly dangerous situation, and the school is equipped with an anonymous reporting service for concerns about school safety, to stop a threat before it starts.

“If your student reports to you they’ve heard this threat this concerning behavior, anything, you need to call the school and if it’s after hours you need to call the police,” says Dr. Rhonda Stegall, Assistant Superintendent of Administration. “As soon as you do that we’re automatically going to start working together and it’s going to be very well investigated.”

After an investigation is performed and any possible threat is de-escalated, officials can work with a student on mental health assessments and concerns that may be connected to potentially violent behavior.

“90 percent of the time there’s an indicator of social media or rumor mill. If we can catch that 90 percent, we can decrease the chance of school violence.”

Commander Chris Kuyper, in Roanoke County PD’s Special Ops Division, works with the FBI, annually instructing other law enforcement agencies and schools nationwide on the Run, Hide, Fight protocol for active shooter situations, performing risk assessments before each school year.

“We want our officers to know the floor plans of each and every school and the access points,” says Commander Kuyper. “The vast majority of these active shooters, adolescents that commit these atrocious acts, they research past active shooter incidents, we do the same thing.”

Schools and law enforcement are always working together on improving their plans, and making sure staff and students know what to do.

“Lockdown consists of teachers locking all their doors, interior and exterior doors, when that happens, kids are placed in a safe zone within their individual classrooms,” explains Commander Kuyper. “The great thing about it is communication between schools and law enforcement is enhanced, they have police radios they can talk to us directly which enhances our response to that threat.”

Additionally, Stegall asks if parent or student does see concerning behavior, not to take it upon themselves to share it on social media. That can cause a panic, complicating the investigation for police and the school.

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