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Quaker Valley to host school safety panel discussion

| Monday, March 5, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

A retraining for emergency responders in the Quaker Valley region on software that provides 360-degree imaging inside every hallway and classroom from a laptop or cell phone already was scheduled before the Feb. 14 mass shooting in a Florida high school.

Training, like the one that took place in Quaker Valley on March 2, and staying prepared for every situation that could arise, from an active shooter to a bus crash or a tornado is one way district leaders work to ensure safety for students and staff, said school police Officer Aaron Vanatta. Another is fostering relationships between school police and students.

“To me, that's going to keep your school safer than any infrastructure you install,” Vanatta said.

Following the Valentine's Day shooting at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people, families and staff have asked Quaker Valley leaders questions and sought information about school safety, said Vanatta, who has served as a school-based law enforcement officer for more than 18 years.

To address those questions, as well as share pertinent information from those working law enforcement, mental health and inside schools, Quaker Valley will host a panel discussion on safety and security in schools March 12 to address topics including physical security, preparedness and awareness, responses, mental health, legislation, threat assessment, warning signs and arming staff.

The panel includes a former FBI agent involved in the Franklin Regional mass stabbing and a subject matter expert on school shootings who has testified before the state senate. The discussion is open to those outside of the Quaker Valley community.

“Due to the hyper state of people, which is understandable when a tragedy like this happens, we want to let them know that we're doing our best and here's what we're doing,” Vanatta said.

Quaker Valley leaders attempt to take a “proactive approach” when it comes to school safety, Vanatta said. The district's focus is on creating awareness and preparedness.

The district is certified in the ALICE Active Shooter training program, which teaches staff and students to follow the rules of the acronym: be Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.

This includes providing blended learning and age appropriate training for children, like children's books, that explain how to respond to an active shooter situation.

However, Vanatta said not all training in the district revolves around an active shooter.

“We are vulnerable in so many ways,” he said, noting the railroad tracks in the district and its proximity to the river. “If we just forget about these other things, we're kidding ourselves.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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