CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Safety in West Virginia schools will be the topic of discussion Thursday in Charleston and will include national speakers.
The 2022 West Virginia School Safety Conference hosted by Mountain State ESC will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott Town Center. The featured speakers covering a range of school safety concerns will be Frank DeAngelis, retired Columbine High School Principal; Molly Hudgens, school counselor and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient; Rob Cunningham, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary of WV Homeland Security; and Chief John Newman, Hillsborough County Schools Chief of Security and Marjory Stoneman Douglas Security Expert.
This event is for school administrators, law enforcement executives, school security directors, emergency managers, school safety officers, school resource officers, probation officers, school crisis team members, educators, community leaders, industry solution providers and mental health professionals.
DeAngelis spoke to MetroNews on the eve of the event.
“I never thought when Columbine happened 23 years ago, we’d still be talking about it and making these same mistakes. We have to learn that these are our kids and it has to stop,” he said.
DeAngelis served as an educator for the Jeffco School District in Littleton Colorado, since 1979.
He retired in June of 2014 after 35 years at Columbine High School. He is presently serving as a consultant for safety and emergency management for the Jeffco School District in Colorado, and continues to travel nationally and internationally, speaking and consulting.
DeAngelis remembers the horrific day on April 20, 1999 when gunmen opened fire inside the high school, killing 13 people.
He said a key point to his talks on Thursday will be the need for resource officers inside a school and said it could have made a difference in 1999.
“We actually had a school resources officer that was engaged in gunfire and the protocol at the time was different, they had to wait for SWAT. But if that school resource officer was able to go in that school immediately, I truly believe we would have not lost the 13 lives at Columbine that we did,” DeAngelis said.
The event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with opening remarks from DeAngelis as he presents, “Leadership Lessons from Columbine and Beyond.” Hudgens and Newman will have similar presentations followed by Q & A’s. Cunningham will present a “West Virginia School Safety Update” from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
DeAngelis said every state is different when it comes to solutions but what works in states should be tried in others. He said he will talk about Indiana’s plan that sticks out, having counselors, resource officers and other officials attend safety conferences annually.
He said there are multiple factors to why these events occur over and over again in the United States.
“There are gun laws that need to be modified but we can’t underestimate other roles. I worry when I hear schools and school districts are removing social workers and counselors. We need to discuss the role social media plays in our student’s lives.”