School safety expert talks about prevention

8:43 PM, Dec 16, 2013   |    comments
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LITTLETON - It makes us feel better. We need place to come, a place to think, a place to say "I care."

One by one, community members young and old have been coming to a tribute site dedicated to Claire Davis, the 17-year-old victim of the Arapahoe High School shooting Friday. As of Monday night, she's still fighting for her life.

People lit candles, placed flowers, stuffed animals and stood by the fence in reflection.

Fifteen-year-old Ignat Zverev was at school Friday.

"I heard it pretty well," he said. "It was an intense experience."

Many, like Zverev, saw and heard things Friday that will stay with them forever. Zverev and his friend Jake Novak, who wasn't at the school during the shooting, say safety is something they don't ordinarily worry about in school.

"It wouldn't seem like there is a lot to worry about normally," freshman Novak said. "I do feel safe in the school, because we do the drills all the time. We do know what to do 24/7."

Drills have become second nature to our students at any school at any age.

"We run drills all the time," Novak said. "Like fire drills, lock down drills. We had two to three lockdown drills this year already before this incident. We run them all. It's a matter of safety. You can tell it's a pretty big deal."

John-Michael Keyes runs the "I love U guys foundation." It's named after the last text his daughter, Emily, sent before being killed at her school.

His foundation works with school districts nation-wide on safety and response to a threat. The foundation is responsible for the Standard Response Protocol, a uniform way or language students, teachers and first responders approach a threat. It's been adopted in school districts all over the country.

Can anything be done to stop such acts of violence?

"If there was a switch and an answer, we'd turn the switch on and have the answer," he said. "What we can do is really mitigate by looking at the spectrum. Threat assessment is a real big piece of this. We got to balance the ability to look at kids who maybe struggling, kids that maybe thinking about acts of violence and some of the Orwellian aspects that can come out of that. Somewhere there is a balance where we can intervene before action is taken."

Keyes says he believes our schools are "mostly" safe.

"There's insiders and there's outsiders. And with threat assessment, with listening to the kids and our teens, we might be able to identify those insiders sooner and intervene," Keyes said. "Outsiders, we don't know they're coming till they're there, and in that case there is some target hardening that can happen."

Target hardening is when a school is less accessible. Many elementary and middle schools only offer one entrance. High schools may be different and have open campuses, like Arapahoe High School.

Keyes also credits the Safe2Tell program with curbing a lot of violence.

It's a way for anyone to anonymously report a threat to a student, or a school, among many other things.

Since 2004, Safe2Tells says it has received reports and helped in prevention of 266 separate school attacks.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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