Educators take part in school safety summit

Joshua Kellogg The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Area educators spent Wednesday taking part in the first county-wide school safety summit, giving staff members from several school districts a chance to receive safety training together.

The first Four Corners School Safety Summit brought nearly 100 educators from the Aztec Municipal, Bloomfield and Farmington Municipal school districts and San Juan College to the college's Henderson Fine Arts Center for a series of work sessions regarding bullying prevention, active shooter training, drug trends and emergency management.

Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the three school districts and the college started organizing the event last year, looking to bring together administrators from each school to train together.

"I feel like we all do a lot of different training and drills. It's a good idea to get everybody together," Carpenter said.

Mark Harris, the principal at Hermosa Middle School in Farmington, said the event was a good refresher on his safety training.

"I think it helps for our districts to have a lot of this processional development together so there is not a lot of difference in policies and procedures," Harris said.

Law enforcement officials from the Farmington Police Department and San Juan County Sheriff's Department spoke about prescription drug medication issues and tools for managing school lock downs and evacuations.

The last session of the day was a discussion by Farmington school administrators and San Juan County emergency management representatives about the May 4 Farmington school bus crash. A bus transporting 44 Bluffview Elementary School students and two staff members rolled over on Indian Route 13 near Red Valley, Ariz., returning from a day trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Ariz.

San Juan County Fire Department Deputy Chief Craig Daugherty, San Juan County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Mestas and San Juan County Communications Authority Operations Manager Tandra Malcolm also spoke on the panel regarding the response to the crash.

District and county officials discussed how the 28 injured passengers were transported to the Northern Navajo Medical Center and San Juan Regional Medical Center, and how students were reunited with their parents.

County officials cited several ways that school districts could handle future emergency situations more effectively.

One change has already been made by Farmington schools, according to Superintendent Gene Schmidt. Multiple copies of the student roster on long-distance trips will be distributed, including to the bus driver, and a copy will be secured on the bus for emergency response personnel to access.

Daugherty said an up-to-date roster on the bus will help school officials with an issue they faced in which students were initially unaccounted for because parents following the school bus transported them to hospitals by private vehicles.

Youth crisis counselor Brooks Gibbs led the educators in two sessions related to bullying prevention. Gibbs, who led a bullying prevention presentation in Aztec earlier this year, spoke about the importance of social and emotional learning, and challenged the educators to remove the word bully from their vocabulary.

"The future of bullying prevention is the retirement of the word bully and the adoption of social and emotional learning skills," Gibbs said.

Gibbs proposed that schools address the behavior the student is perpetuating by name. He said if a student is intimidating another student, spreading rumors or pushing another student, that staff should address the behavior as is instead of labeling it under an histrionic term like bullying.

A session led by Jeff Murray, a protective security adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, discussed the best practices in case a school has an active shooter incident.

He led attendees on the best ways to prepare for, respond to and recover from a shooting. He also emphasized the importance of developing and implementing an emergency response plan.

"You're going to have to make some really tough choices in a situation like this," Murray said.

He went into detail about how people can react when a shooting is taking place, describing techniques to evacuate and hide during an incident.

"None of us own anything worth dying for," Murray said about grabbing personal belongings while evacuating a building.

He also described how witnesses can provide crucial details to law enforcement by providing a description, a location, the number of shooters, the amount and kind of weapons, and the number of potential victims.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.