Educators, law enforcement address school safety

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – With a changing climate of school safety, the state has now made its big push to get educators and law enforcement officials to come up with better social violence safety plans at New Mexico’s school.

Dozens of teachers, police officers and sheriff’s deputies took part in the “Emerging Issues in School Safety” conference Tuesday in Albuquerque, talking about various changes to school safety policies. In the wake of the Berrendo Middle School shooting, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s office is pushing districts statewide to analyze and update their policies.

“What we want to make sure if that they have the up to date training instead of something that’s a little older. And you have a turnover of teachers, you have a turnover of kids,” said Gov. Martinez.

The group is talked about things like how to improve lockdowns, alternatives to locking down schools, how to screen school visitors, how to deal with students using their cell phones and calling parents during emergencies.

The Berrendo Middle School shooting alongside the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has pushed many principals to react as well.

“We’ve got to be safe and we’ve got to have a plan,” said Aubrey Tucker, Principal at Santo Domingo in Bernalillo.

“It’s affirming we still have work to do,” said Jill Gonzales, Principal of Piñon Elementary School in Los Alamos.

National school safety experts addressed the conference Tuesday, saying a lot of changes have been made in national school safety policy in the last year, including new guidelines from FEMA. Some of those changes are in regards to lockdowns.

“They’re really talking about the need for more than one response,” said Dr. Amy Klinger, program director for the Educator’s School Safety Network.

Dr. Klinger says teachers can’t just hide in classrooms anymore, but sometimes have to act before police get there.

“So that, teachers have training that if they can leave, they can evacuate students that they would, if they can barricade the door to make it more difficult for the intruder to reach the students that they can do that,” said Dr. Klinger.

She says many districts don’t have a plan in place to reunite kids with their parents after an incident,” said Dr. Klinger.

For Jill Gonzales, principal of Piñon Elementary School, she says her kids are now taking part in active shooter drills outside of classroom hours.

“Now we’re doing it at recess, what does that look like, doing a drill where we have them find an adult and scatter 07:18 On top of that, then we’ll do an evacuation,” said Gonzales.

Going forward, many local police departments say they’ll meet with local schools to figure out how they can work together if there’s an emergency, and make sure this planning doesn’t go to waste.

“We have our own sites, but to make this efficient it has to be gathered from, each side has their own touch that they bring and then we work together and discuss our strengths and our weaknesses,” said Commander Marlyn Wyatt of the Bloomfield Police Department.

Experts also say they’re seeing more kids sharing photos and information on social media during emergencies. There’s even a hashtag on Instagram called “lockdown selfie.” The experts want teachers to encourage students to post about their personal safety, but not to cause panic or rumor about what’s going on.

The state’s Public Education Department requires every school to have an emergency plan on file for different situations. Schools are required to update those plans at least every three years.

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