The Cherry Creek School District's Comprehensive Safety and Security Plan incorporates physical and psychological safety to ensure a rapid and coordinated response to danger and mental health needs at every school to help prevent school violence.
The Cherry Creek School District's plan was developed based on best practices provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, Aurora Police Department, Greenwood Village Police Department, Cherry Hills Police Department, Denver Police Department, Homeland Security, FEMA, Colorado Emergency Management and the Colorado School Safety Resource Center.
In 2013, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT., district officials met with law enforcement personnel from the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office and the Aurora, Cherry Hills, Greenwood Village and Denver police departments to examine the safety measures at each school in the district. They began their assessments by walking through each of the district's 61 schools and reviewing each building's individual safety plan.
Once the assessments were complete, the chiefs of each department met to talk about ideas and recommendations for enhancing safety protocols. Among the ideas implemented were laminated glass in key areas, the Raptor ID program requiring all visitors to show government-issued identification before being allowed inside schools, updated surveillance systems inside schools and buses, upgraded radios system and additional training for all staff. More information about the Raptor ID Program here.
The group proceeded to design and agree to a common response protocol, which includes a common language (secure perimeter vs. lockout), the mapping of school sites and communication links to eliminate confusion when more than one emergency agency responds to a single incident.
All of this was put to the test when more than two dozen emergency police and fire agencies from around the Denver Metro Area along with personnel from Buckley Air Force Base came together for a daylong training exercise on
Oct. 28, 2015 at Sky Vista Middle School. More about the incident training exercise here.
While the different agencies that serve the Cherry Creek School District have been conducting training exercises at schools for many years, this exercise was one of the largest ever conducted in the metro area, according to Cherry Creek School District Safety and Security Director Randy Councell.
"We want to do something of this magnitude and size yearly," he said. "We want to include new tactics and new techniques that are being developed. This is how we get practice and make sure it works. This is the time to find out, rather than during a crisis.
"In reality, if a call ever did go out from a school, it's going to involve multiple agencies, it's not going to be one or two. This kind of training gives everyone the chance to meet, practice and feel comfortable with the tactics," Councell added.
The common protocol developed by the district and emergency responders is now being used as a model around Colorado and in other states, Cunningham Fire Protection District Chief Jerry Rhodes said.
|"We want to do something of this magnitude and size yearly," district Safety and Security Director Randy Councell said. "We want to include new tactics and new techniques that are being developed. This is how we get practice and make sure it works. This is the time to find out, rather than during a crisis."|
Councell is certified by FEMA as a "Train-the –Trainer" for "G364 Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools," and as a "Master Exercise Practitioner." He conducts live trainings for security staff and personnel. Councell also helped design the Colorado School Safety Resource Center tabletop exercises.
Each school has a functioning school safety design team that monitors the individual building plan for both psychological and physical safety, and a crisis response and recovery team that oversees and implements the school's crisis response plan when needed. In the last three years, schools have conducted more than 2,000 safety drills which include lockdown, fire, weather, shelter in place, secure perimeter, and evacuation drills. More about the safe schools design team here.
All middle and high schools have a School Resource Officer assigned by each law enforcement agency for those schools in their jurisdictions.
While the Cherry Creek School District has placed a large focus on its response to violence in schools, a significant part of its planning and resources also have been dedicated to prevention. Recognition, prevention and early treatment of mental illness all figure into the district's approach to taking care of the overall well-being of its students.
The district's psychological safety policy seeks to recognize and treat such struggles as early as possible. That approach comes through a comprehensive set of prevention, intervention and assessment programs, all designed to help a student before they reach a crisis point.
"There is mental health support available starting in preschool. In elementary schools, there are psychologists and social worker teams," Cam Short-Camilli, coordinator of mental health services for the Cherry Creek School District said. "At middle schools and high schools, there are layers of support – a mental health team, counselors and deans." More about the district's mental health team here.
Districtwide, the district employs 85 psychologists and 51 social workers.
The district also has reviewed the reports issued following the tragedy at Arapahoe High School to see what we can learn about making more improvements to our prevention and response processes. The district's Comprehensive Safety and Security Plan is an evolving process, incorporating new lessons learned from tragedies from around the country.
Learn more about safety in the Cherry Creek School District by visiting our Safety and Security webpage.