At the 20-year mark since the mass shooting at Columbine High School and we should all take time to reflect on the pain and loss experienced by that community – and the many others scarred since then by acts of violence at schools.
We offer some insight on a few local projects and programs our office is involved in, initiatives we believe make our students and school staff safer while providing tools to protect against tragedy.
We are merely participants in these collaborative efforts; we credit school administrators for paying such close attention to the mental well-being of their students.
We still have much to learn and will continue to adjust efforts to what works best. Nothing is guaranteed to be fully fail-safe, but we are hopeful we have applied what has been learned over the years since Columbine to provide best for those who work and learn at our schools.
“We have a stark reminder of what took place 20 years ago in Colorado - an extremely tragic alarm event for parents, police and educators,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said this week. “We continue to make progress in protecting our students and school faculty, but some conversations should remain constant.”
We encourage you to be a part of those conversations. If you have ideas or feedback on school-environment safety measures, please contact Sarah Fritz, Outreach Coordinator for the DA’s Office, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specifically, here are some initiatives in place:
- The School Resource Officer (SRO) program which is active in 15 Lancaster County districts; a total of 22 SROs are stationed at area schools.
The work of SROs is invaluable in strengthening student-staff relationships which can de-escalate volatile situations and boiling-point incidents. Ideally, an at-risk student under stress would feel comfortable opening up to an SRO.
Additionally, SROs are trained and able to deal with a direct threat should one unfold.
- Our distribution of mass-casualty kits, including tourniquets and various bandages, to county districts. A training was held for SROs in January for proper use of the kit materials as well as response tactics to mass-injury events, such as a structural collapse or active-shooter situation.
The kits were not intended to be comprehensive and ample supply for the long-term, but rather a starting point – and the training session a conversation starter on potentially life-saving ideas and instructions.
“You could need it at any time,” Lancaster city police Sgt. Michael Gerace, instructor at the January event, told the group of SROs.
- Our standing offer to area schools – public and private - for free safety-assessment consultations regarding their facilities.
The assessment includes a review of school facilities blueprints and procedures, and, if requested, a walk-through of the facilities to diagnose lacking security measures and identify opportunities for improvement.
Lancaster County Detective Sgt. James Zahm, also commander of the county SERT unit, is the director of the assessment program and has gone to several schools for discussions and walk-throughs.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; email@example.com; Twitter: @BrettHambright