BACK TO SCHOOL 2019: ‘The more you know about how to survive, the greater your chances of survival are’
What do Florida, Oregon, and Texas have in common? All three states, in the past four years, have witnessed school shootings that each left a death toll of 10 or more. And in the past 30 days, four shootings throughout the U.S. claimed more than 35 lives. One of these shootings occurred at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.
As the 2019-2020 academic year is set to get underway, folks are coming up with ways to protect students and staff. Right here in Santa Barbara, Kelly A. Moore – education safety coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board – leads the safety strategizing process.
Mr. Moore started the position last year, but he is by no means green in the area of safety. He retired last year from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, where he was commander, after more than three decades in law enforcement. During that time, he gathered plenty of experience responding to active shooters. Mr. Moore has emergency response skills, yes, but his safety plan for this year is all about prevention.
“We’re moving forward to get people to train on how to report suspicious activity, how to identify students, teachers and other community members that are in crisis, that need help so that we can assist people from the mental health perspective,” said Mr. Moore.
The goal is to “target those people who might become involved in such acts.”
Within Mr. Moore’s plan lies the school threat assessment team, made up of members from different fields such as psychologists, school administrators, counselors, and law enforcement officers. It is a multidisciplinary approach to an issue that is one of the many dividing the nation.
Members for this threat assessment team are still being chosen, but Mr. Moore told the News-Press that he essentially has until the end of the year to finish selecting. What’s at the end of the year?
“I’m trying to work with the FBI,” said Mr. Moore, “to come and give training to the team. It will be required. That will be part of their initiation.”
In addition to the FBI, Mr. Moore is also taking notes from another federal agency: the U.S. Secret Service.
“We’re using the ‘Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model’ published by the U.S. Secret Service July of 2018,” said Mr. Moore.
This model lays out eight steps on how to, as its title suggests, enhance school safety.
The first step in this guide instructs the reader to “establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team,” which Mr. Moore is in the process of doing. Other steps include defining “concerning and prohibited behaviors,” determining “the threshold for law enforcement intervention,” and creating “a central reporting mechanism.”
This central reporting mechanism in the district will take the form of an app called CrisisGo. The app will be the modern public announcement system, but it seems to be so much more. Founded in 2013, CrisisGo will allow school administrators and teachers to send out emergency notices to parents and children who have the app downloaded on their phones. In addition to the announcements, the app will allow two-way communication between these administrators and teachers. The app also grants administrators the ability to reach out to specific students and parents if circumstances call for it.
“If we choose to, we can ask questions,” said Mr. Moore. For example, “‘are you okay?'”
Mr. Moore has his school safety plan, but in his heart, he believes that “our schools are pretty safe.”
As one who has 34 years of law enforcement experience, Mr. Moore tries to stay calm in the face of a disaster.
“I train for what some people think are inevitable, but I don’t let it control my life,” he said.
The plan that he is delivering is more about preparedness to him.
“The more you know about how to survive, the greater your chances of survival are, decreasing the anxiety about the unknown,” said Mr. Moore.
The app is slated to launch in the district by the end of September. Students will be returning to their respective campuses starting Tuesday.