Delaware Public Media

State Sen. Hansen and officials talk school safety at public forum

Jun 19, 2018

School safety was the subject of a forum moderated by state Senator Stephanie Hansen Monday.

The forum discussed best practices for schools to prevent and respond to violent incidents.

The seven panelists ranged from a former School Resource Officer to a representative from the Department of Education.

Sen. Hansen kicked off the panel with a presentation of data her team collected from news reports of school shootings across the country since Sandy Hook, concluding that shooters are mostly current students, and that most shootings follow a prior dispute between kids.

Panelists explained why students are told to “run, hide, fight” in the event of an active shooter, noted the need for more mental health professionals in schools, and largely agreed teachers should not be armed.

Several panelists characterized metal detectors in schools as cumbersome to implement, and easy for creative students to find ways around.

Annie Slease of national nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise sat on the panel, and urged Delaware school leaders to look at fixing the underlying causes of violence and suicide among school aged children, such as mental health issues and bullying.

“If the crisis doesn’t happen at school, because we’ve prevented it with the perfect metal detector, if we haven’t gotten to the root cause of the crisis, it’s just going to happen somewhere else,” she said.

Chris Rowe and Janis Colmery, both concealed carry holders, came to the forum expecting to need to defend their stance on gun rights.

“The key thing we were hoping ... is they wouldn’t make it a gun issue, they would make it a child safety issue,” said Rowe.

“We had questions written down, and we decided we didn’t need them. They kept it about the children, and the schools, and the environment,” added Colmery.

Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe was also among those on the panel.

He says his department’s Comprehensive School Safety Program has set minimum standards for schools to create safety teams and plans and conduct table-top exercises and incident drills.

Some districts have gone above and beyond that. Coupe noted Red Clay, which recently provided all of its administrators a panic button app.

“Some of the other places …  where we’d like to see more, sometimes it’s because of experience, sometimes it’s because of recent transition,” he said. “Again, it could be because of some of the financial challenges that some of the districts face.”

Coupe says the Department hopes to start an audit program. That would have Homeland Security staff sit in on the table-top safety exercises to evaluate safety plans from different perspectives, and make sure all floor plans are up to date.