Parents and security experts shared stories both heartbreaking and inspiring during a two-hour forum on school security held March 13 at Parker’s Cimarron Middle School. Parker parents David and Carly Posey, whose children attended Sandy Hook Elementary during the tragic December 2012 mass shooting, highlighted the evening.
David Posey now is president of Cimarron’s PTO; the family had made plans to move to Parker before the shooting due to David’s job transfer. In the Douglas County School District, they say they’ve found a deep sense of security.
After watching his teacher and a classmate die, the Posey’s son Reichen fled to safety from a Sandy Hook classroom while the gunman reloaded. He and his siblings now are Douglas County students.
“The Douglas County School District has made our children’s safety a top priority, and they haven’t stopped working on this issue,” said Carly Posey, adding that during her years as an involved parent at Sandy Hook, “Never was school security talked about.”
When frantic parents gathered at a Newtown, Conn. firehouse after the shooting, Posey said some children mistakenly were sent home with their classmates’ parents, adding to the panic and chaos for parents who later couldn’t find their children. She compared that to the orderly reunification of parents and students that occurred at Cimarron March 7 after a low-credibility bomb threat at nearby Legend High School forced the cancellation of classes.
“I’m sure Newtown had some sort of plan on paper, but they never thought they would need it,” she said.
The Poseys have joined some Columbine High School parents to create the Sandy Hook Columbine Cooperative, designed to help communities prepare, respond, and recover from a traumatic event.
“While part of us will always be with those we love back in Connecticut, Dave and I know from experience it really does take a village to raise a child,” Carly Posey said. “We are so thankful and proud our village is here with you in Colorado.
“We are ready to do our part to make certain that not just our kids, but all kids are safe at school.”
John Michael-Keyes, whose daughter Emily was fatally shot at Platte Canyon High School in September 2006, also addressed the audience. Keyes founded the i love u guys Foundation, and is credited as the driving force behind the standard response protocols now used by school districts nationwide.
Former hostage negotiator and SAFE2TELL creator Susan Payne, and Douglas County school resource officer Tyler Herman also talked about school security.
Though all praised DCSD’s efforts, they agreed much work remains to be done both locally and nationally.
Payne said students need continual encouragement to talk about things they hear and see. In almost all cases, the person that conducted a violent act exhibited some alarming behavior before they acted, she said. Those unusual behaviors apply not just to violent acts against others, but potential suicide victims, Payne said.
Payne also said sophisticated technology allows officials to track tips and prevent tragedies. Officials tracked a Georgia teen to his home hours after he’d told fellow online gamers about a potential planned school attack. Though the teen said he’d never intended to put his words into action, officers removed seven weapons from his home.
Such tips and hotlines likely have prevented two planned school attacks and in Colorado alone, about 80 potential suicides.
“We are seeing a culture among adults and children that says, `Look the other way, mind your own business’,” Payne said. “But if we’re going to get information from people, we need to make sure they’re engaged in a two-way dialogue. We have to be engaged and proactive.”