In late March, hundreds of school safety professionals convened in Houston, Texas, to attend the inaugural National Summit on School Safety, a two-day conference co-hosted by Safe and Sound Schools and Region 4 Education Service Center. The conference focused on comprehensive school safety, providing attendees with opportunities to learn about topics ranging from threat assessment and emergency planning to mental health and school safety funding. With more than 30 presenters and panelists in attendance, attendees were able to listen to keynotes, attend workshops, and participate in a series of intimate roundtable discussions.
Read on for a detailed summary of the event. As you can imagine, with two jam-packed days, there’s a lot to cover.
After introductory remarks by Dr. Pam Wells and Chief Alan Bragg, Michele Gay and Alissa Parker led the first keynote of the conference. This was the first time in five years Michele and Alissa shared the stage. They shared memories of their daughters, Joey and Emily, before walking the audience through the tragic events at Sandy Hook. Their primary message for attendees: rethink school safety – together.
The day proceeded with an agenda full of workshops focusing on the six key components of comprehensive school safety: (1) physical environment (2) operations and emergency management (3) mental and behavioral health (4) health and wellness (5) culture, climate, and community (6) school law, policy and finance. Attendees were able to participate in three workshop sessions throughout the day before ending the day with small roundtable discussion sessions. Presenters included:
- Dr. CJ Huff – Former Superintendent of Joplin Schools and child advocate
- Susan Payne – Founder of Safe2Tell and 28-year law enforcement veteran
- Lisa Hamp – Survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting and school safety advocate
- Bernie James – Professor of Law Specializing in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, and Education Law
- John-Michael Keyes – Founder and Executive Director of The “I Love U Guys” Foundation
- Scarlett Lewis – Founder of Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement and social emotional learning advocate
- Paul Timm – VP of Facility Engineering Associates, Physical Security Professional, Author
For the full list of workshop presenters, click here.
Safe and Sound Schools and Region 4 welcomed another full house on day two of the conference, starting the morning with the Beyond Columbine panel, featuring:
- Jim Accomando, President of the National Parent Teacher Association
- Dr. Melissa Reeves, Past President of the National Association of School Psychologists
- Dr. CJ Huff, Former Superintendent of the Joplin, Missouri Schools
- Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers
- John-Michael Keyes, Father of Emily Keyes, Executive Director of the I Love U Guys Foundation
- Natalie Hammond, Surviving Sandy Hook Teacher
- Patrick Ireland, Surviving Columbine Student
- Charlie Hobin, Student Leader, Bend, Oregon
Mo Canady focused the importance of school resource officers and building relationships while Natalie Hammond and Patrick Ireland shared the importance of support systems during recovery. John-Michael Keyes and Dr. Melissa Reeves echoed Natalie and Patrick’s thoughts and discussed trauma. Dr. Melissa emphasized that trauma is a life-long journey and advocated for life-long support post-tragedy. CJ Huff shared the importance of self-care after a tragedy while Jim Accomando urged parents to have a seat at the table. Charlie Hobin concluded the panel session with a message for students: get involved and spread kindness.
“My failure as a leader during the disaster was I did not take care of myself. Now I understand the need to be a role model of SELF CARE.” – Dr. CJ Huff
After another series of roundtable discussion sessions, the day continued with a second panel focused on tools and technology, featuring:
- Anthony LaValle, Industry Expert & Founder, ReportIt
- Titania Jordan, Industry Expert & Chief Parent Officer, Bark Technologies
- Bruce Canal, Industry Expert & Director Industry Associations, Axis Communications
- Rania Mankarious, Chief Executive Officer, Crime Stoppers of Houston
- Dr. Catherine Finger, Industry Expert & Business Development Manager, NaviGate Prepared
- Erin Wilson, Industry Expert and Door Security & Safety Foundation Ambassador
Panelists discussed available tools and technology for safer schools with panel moderator Paul Timm encouraging people not to give up on technology as part of a comprehensive safety plan. Panelists also emphasized the need for community like-mindedness, supporting school culture, building partnerships and remembering that although helpful, technology is not your only line of defense.
“It’s not always a technological solution…there’s security management, behavioral, leaning on your relationships, your friends… it’s important that you realize you have a world of knowledge.” – Bruce Canal, Industry Expert & Director Industry Associations, Axis Communications
Former Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis and Columbine survivor Patrick Ireland closed the summit with an inspiring, tear-jerking, and powerful keynote that brought the audience to a standing ovation. Frank DeAngelis walked the audience through the Columbine tragedy and illustrated the powerful and lasting relationships he built with his students throughout his career. As Patrick Ireland shared his experience and journey toward recovery, he left the audience with four key takeaways:
(1) People at generally good in nature. (2) With perseverance we can all achieve greatness. (3) We have a choice of being a victor or victim. (4) There is tremendous power in forgiveness.
This summit was made possible with the generous support of our partners and the collective effort between the Region 4 and Safe and Sound Schools team. Thank you to everyone that joined us in Houston!