Every day, we leave for school thinking we’ll be home for dinner, but sometimes, that’s not the case. Between 1999 and 2019, 9 school shootings have occurred in Colorado, 2 in the past school year. The Frank DeAngelis Foundation, named after former Columbine high school’s principal, aims to stop that. They held a School Safety Briefing in Wheat Ridge on August 1 to showcase their facilities and training to the Colorado State Legislators Interim Committee. The Frank DeAngelis training center used to be an elementary school but was shut down due to low enrollment. This makes a perfect setting to train some of law enforcement’s very best. The training center is the only one in the country for school and law enforcement officers to learn how to best respond to school shootings. Leading the briefing was John McDonald, executive director of security and emergency management at Jeffco Public Schools and Kevin Carroll, the brand new executive director of the foundation. Also introduced were the board of directors of the Jeffco DeAngelis foundation.
During the active shooter demonstration, you could hear kids screaming and gunshots as police officers took the suspect into custody. They explained how a recent grant allowed them to install new features such as lights, smoke, and a high-quality sound system. You could smell and see the smoke of the gun and hear the gunshots as well as a girl pleading with the shooter. It was a little frightening how realistic it felt and how intense it was. Because first responders are triggered by the 5 senses when in a real-life situation, the facility was made to be as realistic as possible. We were told that when they are doing real training the intensity is even higher, so much that sometimes you can’t see you’re hand in front of your face because there is so much smoke. Afterward, they took us to the old gym of the school, where they had a state of the art active shooter simulation in which the person would walk in the room and engage with the suspect on the screen and try to de-escalate the situation as if he or she were a real suspect. An operator outside of the room acts as the shooter and responds by escalating or de-escalating the scenario. For example, if the person trying to talk down the shooter is not doing very well, the operator can escalate the situation and vise-versa. The simulator is the only one of its kind in the country and has attracted the attention of the New York PD, FBI and more. Just last year, 6500 law enforcement officers trained at the center.
At the end of the demonstrations, there was a debrief and the group talked some more about one big question: how can law enforcement and school officials talk together to make our school and community safer?