More than 1,400 educators and law enforcement officials turned out for the annual safe schools seminar Friday with thoughts of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy on their minds.
“It’s a record turnout,” said Amanda Nickerson, director of the University at Buffalo’s Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention. “It’s several hundred more than what we had last year.
“I certainly think the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., has sensitized us to the need to do anything that we can to prevent violence,” she said. “But it’s got to be more than just hearing this information. It’s ‘What are the plans that are in place to protect and intervene?’ ”
The 10th annual Safe Schools Initiative Seminar, held in UB’s Center for the Arts on the North Campus in Amherst, featured a presentation by retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a leading expert on human aggression and the roots of violent crime.
He gave the crowd some straight talk about what schools and law enforcement are up against.
“We must prepare for violence like a firefighter prepares for a fire,” Grossman said.
Grossman discussed deterrence, detection and indicators that should raise red flags for schools and law enforcement, among other issues. But schools also need to seriously consider armed guards or staff, Grossman said.
“Cameras are great, but as far as I know not a single camera deterred one of these killings,” said Grossman, a former West Point professor of psychology and military science and director of the Warrior Science Group. “These killings are not going to stop until someone with a gun shows up.”
The daylong seminar was intended to bring law enforcement and educators together, because keeping schools safe is everyone’s responsibility, said Tracy A. Gast, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Buffalo.
In fact, the seminar drew educators from throughout the state and Ontario.
“You have to stay abreast of what’s going on and how things are happening to keep your school as safe as possible,” Gast said. “You have to keep up with the latest – not necessarily even technology – but methods and procedures to help keep schools safe and secure.”