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DOE hosts training for educators on responding to crises, school shootings

Niu Valley Middle School Classroom Department of Education.jpg
Hawaiʻi Department of Education
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Teachers, administrators and school support staff members from across the state participated in a three-day conference on preventing, identifying and responding to various school safety concerns.

While schools and the state Department of Education routinely have discussions and training on safety, this is the first time national experts were brought in to speak with school officials.

DOE Deputy Superintendent Heidi Armstrong says the conference is a way for schools and the department to be proactive.

"I attended a school safety conference earlier this summer, and I thought it would be really good to bring that conference here," she said.

Among other things, the conference gives educators insights into the latest trends in school safety, and how schools across the U.S. are creating their own safety protocols.

"It's to continue the conversation, and make sure that we're aware — and to make sure that we are at a level of school safety that we need to be to keep all of our students safe," said Armstrong.

Most of the conferences' speakers have law enforcement experience and have been called to schools in the U.S. when a major event happened.

"The unfortunate part is, in our job, we deal with things after they happen a lot," said Sean Burke, president of the School Safety Advocacy Council. "The district doesn't call us until after they've had an incident. This Department of Education was calling us prior to anything happening. So hopefully, they're either going to prevent it. Or if they can't prevent it, they're going to deal with it a lot better, so a lot less people will be affected."

The conference held events discussing school shootings, student mental health, social media threats, and responding and managing a crisis. Other presentations included emergency management and the role of law enforcement at schools.

Burke tells HPR he was surprised to see different staff members at the conference.

"They recognize how important it is not to just train the school administrators. But we're training custodial staff, the safety and security officers, the front office staff. We're training the complete staff," he said. "A lot of districts we deal with say, 'Well I sent my principals.' Well, it's just not the principal that needs to know it... So I think, overall, parents should be happy that they're being proactive."

The DOE says it was mandatory for most schools to send representatives to the first two days of the conference.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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