On the morning of September 9, more than 200 staff of the Globe Unified School District gathered together for emergency response training. Superintendent Jerry Jennex explained to the audience that Globe is updating their emergency plan, and this is part of the process. He shared that there are around 1,680 students in the district and “it’s our responsibility to be ready and keep them safe.” He added, “If you’re a parent you know your most valuable possession is your child.”
The Standard Response Protocol presentation was led by Dr. David Benke of the I Love U Guys Foundation. Benke had worked as a math teacher for 36 years and survived the Deer Creek Middle School shooting in Colorado on Feb. 23, 2010. Benke explained how the shooter was outside shooting at students as they came out of the school, and he was the first one to tackle the shooter. Another teacher helped hold the shooter in a headlock, the vice principal moved the gun away, and bus drivers loaded kids onto buses and drove away from the scene as fast as they could. Before the police arrived a maintenance worker had zip-tied the shooter, and a parent who worked as an ER nurse jumped in to help the injured staff and students. A substitute teacher on-site stated, “Everyone just seemed to know what to do.” Benke attributes their response to a training they went through just 7 months prior.
Benke now works for the I Love U Guys Foundation, which was started by the family of Emily Keyes, who died in a school shooting in 2006. “I love you guys” was the last text Emily was able to send her parents. Within days of her death, Emily’s father John-Michael wrote the following mission statement because they knew they had to do something: To restore and protect the joy of youth through educational programs and positive actions in collaboration with families, schools, communities, organizations and government entities. The Keyes left their jobs and put their all into this foundation.
A mid-day break in the training allowed district staff to win cash prizes ranging from $5 to $100. Free district t-shirts also were provided to all GUSD staff. The second half of the day covered the Standard Reunification Method, which provides schools with proven methods to plan, practice and achieve successful reunification with parents and guardians during what could be chaotic and stressful circumstances.
The Foundation’s all-hazard crisis programs are used in more than 30,000 schools around the world. “We are glad that we have the opportunity to have this training,” stated Jennex. District staff were given access to free resources on the Foundation’s web site, which includes posters, plans and videos, to further their use of the SRP and SRM protocols.
When asked her thoughts about the training, Globe High School teacher Carrie Nawrocki stated, “Kids, teachers, administration, community members all need to use the same lingo.” The reunification plan included ways to keep parents cognitively busy to help them stay calm. Nawrocki added, “Also, when waiting for reunification, we need to keep the kids stress free… that means entertainment.”
The program involves coordination with school staff, district employees, law enforcement, mental health workers and more. The reunification plan also covered minute details, such as security that is used to identify non-custodial parents who may be trying to pick up their children, and also how to assist students who may have immediate needs such as medication.
As stated by John-Michael Keyes, “We need to keep our schools as a place that kids feel safe, without locking them in.” The information received in the training will be reiterated at schools across the district, and resources and supports will be provided to staff members with the goal to keep every student safe.