State Safety Experts Train Schools on Handling Threats

February 22, 2018 10:33 PM

Dozens of Minnesota schools have investigated possible threats since last week's high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The Minnesota School Safety Center sees calls for training rise every time there is a widely-reported incident in the nation - like a disease outbreak, a natural disaster or - as experts are now experiencing - a school shooting.


RELATED: 1 Remains in Custody, 2nd Person of Interest Cleared in Orono Lockdown Incident

"Any time that there's any type of event that occurs within the schools, especially within the United States and even more importantly when it's more local like in the Midwest area, we do get some additional interest where schools would contact us and say, 'Hey we're looking at this particular part of our program,'" said Randy Johnson, director of The Minnesota School Safety Center.

It's part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. And last year, the center trained more than 200 public, private, charter and tribal schools statewide.

"They're very different," he said of each school training. "Whether you're dealing with a pre-K or a K-level school, or an upper level of a 9-12 school."

RELATED: Elk River High School Student Arrested for Threat Day after Orono Arrest

As unique as each school training can be, Johnson said communication is increasingly important because it is also ever-changing.

Wednesday, Orono schools sent updates approximately every 15 minutes to assure parents and the public that students were safe.

Still, one mother tweeted a fear-filled interaction with her 13-year-old in lockdown. The student was texting his mother, sharing fear there might really have been an active shooter.

Johnson said districts can avoid a lot of chaos by telling students what to initially text their parents, which can help keep the message uniform and factual.

Six Minnesota districts have requested on-site intruder training from the center since the shooting in Florida last week.

They train on much more than intruders, and they do it in detail. One portion of the active shooter or intruder training even focuses on how to properly reunite families following an incident.

The MN School Safety Initiative also offers a worksheet for districts to follow to help them identify if a threat made by a student is viable.

It asks 11 questions that help administrators learn more about the student, their possible motives, and who in their lives they can reach out to for better answers.

"A lot of it is the uniqueness of the schools themselves and the community," Johnson said. "That's the part we really, really have to pay close attention to and listen."

Between changing student bodies and different makeups of school buildings, safety plans can evolve every year.

That's why, when it comes to school safety, Johnson said you can never really stop learning.


Katherine Johnson

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