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What Else Could Denver Teachers Learn in One Day?

June 23, 2018

Over the course of 29 years as a public school superintendent I developed or oversaw the development of scores of staff development days. While I know that teachers often grumbled and often thought their time would be better spent teaching children, may colleagues and I viewed this time as important in terms of defining the direction we wanted our schools to head in the future and in defining our priorities.

Until the early 2000s we never spent a minute on how to deal with school shootings. Following Columbine, though, the federal and state legislatures and local Boards began to feel that the development of plans for school shootings was a priority… so much so that grant money that once flowed for things like drug and alcohol prevention was overtaken by grants for hiring SROs, training EMTs, and providing “tabletop exercises” for towns deal with emergency evacuations in the event of disaster events like school shootings.

I read last week of the Denver Public School district’s day-long exercise to address the invasion of their schools by a shooter.

“We’ve staged a shooter inside a school,” said Michael Eaton, Chief of the Dept. of Safety for DPS. “We have actually put bullet casings around the building. We have actors that have makeup on with flesh wounds.”

Denver Public Schools wanted the shooting exercise to feel real. First responders were called to Vista Academy not knowing where the shooter was or how many people were injured. The actor portraying the shooter and responding officers used guns that fired blanks or training rounds filled with paint.

“We are testing our emergency response coordination and communication with both our Department of Safety as well as Denver paramedics, Denver fire and Denver police,” Eaton said.

I only hope that Denver spent as much time coordinating services with the various social service agencies in their city that provide preventative care to students who might think that shooting up a school is a good idea. Or better yet… instead of spending time and money hiring actors to put on make-up with flesh wounds use a day to interview students to find out how they are experiencing school and what actions would be needed to fully engage them. Or even better yet, spend a day communicating with parents to determine how their children perceive their experience in school. The time we are opening cultivating fear would be far better spent cultivating parent and student engagement.


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