A new $1 million program to make Colorado schools safer was introduced Dec. 14, its aim to prevent further tragedies like the massacre at Columbine High School last spring.
The statewide initiative, developed by the Center for the Study of Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado, will provide the state’s 1,500 schools with resources, planning tools, and assistance. Another key part of the initiative will be the selection of 20 schools for in-depth training to develop a comprehensive plan.
Center director Delbert Elliott said many schools adopted plans to deal with school violence in the wake of the Columbine shootings, but most dealt with response rather than prevention. Other communities adopted programs that do not work, he added, including adult court for juvenile offenders and shock probation programs.
The $1 million from the Colorado Trust, a private foundation, will support a three-year project, “Safe Communities-Safe Schools Initiative,” to help communities develop their own protection plans.
The goal is to help communities establish a planning team, conduct site assessments, and develop strategies and a crisis response plan. The planning teams would include students, parents, teachers, administrators, the Board of Education, legislators, business leaders, clergy, and local law enforcement.
An annual school site assessment is being recommended to determine any school safety problems and check out the social environment. Police would check escape routes, sprinkler and alarm systems, cable television and electrical supplies, and other factors they would need in the event of a crisis.
During the Columbine attack, police said they had difficulty getting a layout for the school to help find trapped students, and alarms and sprinklers impaired rescue efforts.
The initiative also recommends a review of federal, state, and local statutes with a school district lawyer to discuss school policies. Students at risk of violence would be identified, and a social support team would be appointed to intervene. Elliott said that could include getting a court order in volatile situations.