June 19, 2024

Keeping students safe

In Murray, school safety is part of the curriculum

For such a small school district, the staff at Murray Community School are wholly prepared for handling a worst-case scenario.

Superintendent Alan Miller isn’t just an administrator. He is also part of the Clarke County Sheriff Reserves and has extensive training in active shooter response and prevention. His goal is to make personal safety an integrated part of the curriculum.

“Don’t walk through life in fear,” he said. “Just know what’s around you. It’s a good lesson for everybody.”

He’s gotten the training needed to know how to best teach those skills throughout the district.

School safety training

Over the summer, Miller attended the three-and-a-half day Briefings national school safety symposium from July 9 to 13 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The event was hosted by the “I Love U Guys,” Foundation, created by Ellen and John-Michael Keyes, the parents of Platte Canyon High School shooting victim Emily Keyes. The couple has made it their mission to help prevent more incidents from occurring.

Sessions covered proven ways to prevent and effectively manage active shooter situations and other types of school-related violence. By attending, Miller became certified to train others in Standard Response Protocol and the Standard Reunification Method.

Miller also attended the 9th annual School Safety Conference hosted by the Iowa Association of School Resource Officers June 20 and 21 at Camp Dodge.

Speakers included Frank DeAngelis, principal of Columbine High School during the shooting in 1999, Michele Gay, founder of Safe and Sound Schools and mother of a Sandy Hook shooting victim, and Lou Savelli, retired New York City police officer and crime detective expert and Sandy Hook first-responder Cpt. Christopher Vanghele of the Newtown Police Department.

He’s attended previous conferences and taken courses on active shooter training, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), Home Land Security Emergency Management and counterdrug and terrorism training.

“It’s because of the people I’ve been blessed to know,” he said, noting the heavy influence the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department has had in his ongoing education.

Along with training staff and students in safety techniques, the training offers secondary benefits to the district.

In July, Miller was asked to serve on the Iowa School Resource Officer Board of Directors and on the Iowa Safe Schools Alliance, giving area schools an advantage in terms of new research -- and possible funding for projects.

Later this year, Miller will also work with the FBI to develop an in-school program addressing online safety, but he also had advice for parents.

Advice for parents

“Always know what your kids are doing and who they are with —on and offline,” said Miller.

He also encouraged parents to stay diligent.

“This is not going to be a popular statement,” warned Miller, “but kids should have no expectation of privacy at home. Looking at active shooter situations... all a parent had to do was open the door.”

Miller also cautioned all members of the community to speak up if they saw or heard a warning sign. Ignoring warning signs might be more comfortable, he said, but “that does not allow us to get the child the help that they need.”