Colorado Innovators Showcased for National Safe Schools Week

With National Safe Schools Week getting a boost this year from Investigation Discovery and the National PTA, Denver-based School Safety Partners is marking the occasion with a showcase of school safety initiatives that started in Colorado and are now attracting nationwide attention. Projects include a dramatic new way schools use 9-1-1, statewide training conferences, Colorado authors on national lecture tours, an anonymous reporting service, the launch of standardized safety procedures, and a special educational distribution of "April Showers," a new motion picture about Columbine.

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From the film, April Showers, based on the Columbine shooting, written and directed by Andrew Robinson

Denver, CO (PRWEB) October 19, 2009

With National Safe Schools Week getting a boost this year from Investigation Discovery and the National PTA, Denver-based School Safety Partners is marking the occasion with a showcase of school safety initiatives that started in Colorado and are now attracting nationwide attention.

Projects include a dramatic new way schools use 9-1-1, statewide training conferences, Colorado authors on national lecture tours, an anonymous reporting service, the launch of standardized safety procedures, and a special educational distribution of "April Showers," a new motion picture about Columbine.

"We're establishing a culture of security," said Steve Hoban, head of school safety for Boulder Valley School District, as he shared his proposed plan to address school violence and a host of other kinds of emergencies.

Hoban's proposal won his district the nation's largest school readiness and emergency management grant this year from the U.S. Department of Education. His next move is to build an emergency communications infrastructure for the entire school district, and for that he submitted on Friday a grant proposal to Colorado's Office of Homeland Security.

Pueblo County demonstrated its own communications system, which revolutionizes the way schools think about 9-1-1. Now schools can call 9-1-1 and be immediately connected with first responders through the schools' two-way radios. Principals and school staff are specially trained to communicate and work directly with police, fire, EMS, and others during a crisis.

Sheriff Kirk Taylor explained, "Whether it is them giving us information we use to make tactical decisions during a critical event at the school, or us advising them on a lockdown or shelter request when there is potential danger in their area, having this immediate notification means the students are safer, and so are the deputies."

Funding was provided by the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, the Department of Homeland Security's Public Safety Interoperability Communications Grant Program, the Pueblo County 9-1-1 Authority Board, and Pueblo School District 70.

SchoolSAFE Communications, a Colorado company that developed the enhanced 9-1-1 system specifically for schools, will announce this week its own grant program to fund pilot projects in model schools around the country using the technology. Hoban's pilot installation in Boulder Valley will be the cover story in an upcoming issue of a national safety magazine.

Meanwhile, across the state, schools are adopting the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS), universal standards among professional responders. With the help of Linda Kanan, director of the newly created Colorado School Safety Resource Center, and facilitators from other state agencies, schools large and small are teaming up with local first responders for joint training, planning, drills, exercises, evaluations, and sharing best practices. July 1, 2009, was the deadline for every school to announce their plans for achieving full NIMS implementation, as required by Colorado law.

The program caught the attention of international school safety expert, Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, who wrote a guide to Colorado's School Response Framework law. "We often discuss Colorado's progress in our work around the country and in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East," he said. Dorn is co-organizing with School Safety Partners the first annual National Safe School Design Conference for the school construction community, highlighting solutions found in Colorado.

The 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, is the deadliest high school shooting in America. Two Colorado authors released books this year on the tragedy. Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine," and Jeff Kass, author of "Columbine: A True Crime Story," are both on national lecture tours. Cullen is preparing lesson plans to use "Columbine" as a text for college and high school courses. Kass is visiting other schools where shootings have occurred. "Kids in high school today are among the most interested," Kass told School Safety Partners, "The danger is real to them."

Safe2Tell, another program developed in Colorado and now spreading to other states, provides an anonymous venue for students, parents, teachers, and others to share information. In just 2 years, there have been over 1,600 Safe2Tell reports statewide resulting in investigation, early intervention and prevention. Started with funding from The Colorado Trust, the program has grown with the support of a consortium of public and private organizations.

State Congressman Steve King, from Grand Junction, is promoting improved school response through an expanded drill program. He has been touring the state to gather recommendations from schools on conducting 5 different kinds of drills with minimal disruption to teaching and learning, before introducing new legislation in the next session.

Local school safety activist, John-Michael Keyes, is also touring the state to encourage greater involvement of parents in school safety planning. He regularly meets with schools and public safety agencies to help them establish a Standard Response Protocol, a set of common terminology and definitions to avoid confusion during a crisis response. Keyes spoke at a national school safety conference this Summer at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Justice. His presentation is deeply personal. His daughter, Emily, was murdered 3 years ago by an intruder at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado.

Recovery and resilience are themes explored in "April Showers," a new indie motion picture written and directed by Andrew Robinson, who was a senior at Columbine the day of the massacre. The film is a retelling of the shooting and the immediate aftermath from the point-of-view of teens who survived. The realism of the scenes has prompted schools and responders to use clips from the movie in class discussions and professional development. As a result, a premium version of the film will soon be released to schools and agencies with a library of multimedia companion materials and a tie-in online network and virtual campus for the school safety community.

For more details about these initiatives, visit School Safety Partners at schoolsafetypartners.org throughout National Safe Schools Week, October 19-24, 2009. Today, School Safety Partners debuts a free online course, School Critical Incident Planning.

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