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Shooting at high school In Parkland, Florida injures multiple people (Photo: Getty Images)

As a parent, former police officer and as a public safety professional, I am deeply concerned about the recent Florida Parkland school shooting and the other school shootings that have occurred just this year. “Are we prepared?” and “How are we going to protect our children?” are questions that continue to keep me awake at night and I know many parents and teachers are asking themselves this same question.

We have concerned parents, students, staff, elected officials and community advocating for stricter gun laws through mobilization to hold our elected officials responsible for not acting on legislation that will provide for stricter gun laws.

Due to the accessibility of guns in our country, recent school shootings and the combination of untreated behavioral health needs and other societal challenges bring us to the reality that our children are targets both inside and outside the classroom.

We must continue to advocate to enact federal legislation to reduce the accessibility of firearms. In the meantime, what are we going to do to keep our children safe?

We have learned from the Parkland, Florida shooting that students, teachers and staff had significant training on fire drills, however, the shooter pulled the fire alarm to get students to come out of the classrooms. When they heard shots fired they were trained on shelter in place procedures trying to find places inside the classroom to hide and locking doors.

As a school district and community, we have to tackle this with a sense of urgency through a pro-active multidisciplinary approach. Our schools can’t do this alone.

As a public safety professional, we should start by conducting a security assessment of where we are as a school district that includes scenario-based training, infrastructure security measures and overall planning on how we prepare ourselves for an active shooter.

We need Comprehensive Scenario-based Training that is ongoing every year with every school with students, teachers, staff, local public safety officials, Educational Resource Officers and community. That focuses on active shooters but also other threats.

We need to conduct school safety infrastructure audits in every school helping to identify the school security snapshot that will help identify the vulnerabilities of each school that include replacing locks, video, check-in procedures. This also includes investing in security measures that are not currently in place and the need for advanced technology.

Providing behavioral health support is critical for violence prevention that includes training for students and staff on the identification behavioral health signs and suspicious behavior in conjunction with the development of reporting procedures.

Provide support for our teachers and security staff who are having to walk around with lockdown keys and are responsible for keeping our kids safe. The thought of having to prepare for the worst-case scenario causes a lot of stress both physically, mentally and emotionally.

Develop and implement threat assessment procedures to determine whether a student poses a threat of violence. Those who pose a threat indicate their intentions in many ways. This will require a multi-disciplinary team that includes mental health professionals, school administrators and law enforcement.

We need to fight for stricter gun laws and legislation at the state and federal level but we have to implement strategies today to place resources towards ensuring the safety of our students, teachers and staff.

We all have that responsibility.

Written by Gloria Reyes

Gloria Reyes

Gloria Reyes is Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Community Services for the City of Madison.

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