Under the guidelines of recently passed Missouri Senate Bill 75, all public schools within St. Louis can embrace a new opportunity to increase school safety by July 1, 2014. Section 170.315 provides an opportunity for all Pattonville staff members to engage in The Active Shooter and Intruder Response Training Program (ASIRT) and learn safety procedures for potential threatening incidents.

A 2011-12 file photo shows a field trip that the 2012 Senior class took to the Maryland Heights police department. With the ASIRT program option available by July 1, 2014, officers from this department will help train Pattonville teachers and administrators.

A 2011-12 file photo shows a field trip that the 2012 Senior class took to the Maryland Heights police department. With the ASIRT program option available by July 1, 2014, officers from this department will help train Pattonville teachers and administrators.

The St. Louis County Police Department will provide safety training for all Pattonville schools of all levels K-12 within the district. Since the process involves several puzzle pieces to teach emergency gun violence procedures, administrators and teachers will not likely undergo the training until August 2014.

“According to Senate Bill 75, all a school has to do is run one active shooter drill per year,” said St. Louis County police officer Corey Zavorka. “The one stipulation of the drill is that a law enforcement officer must be present.”

Working for the St. Louis County police department for eight years, Zavorka recognizes the importance of schools adding another emergency procedure to their agenda. While the bill’s conditions don’t apply to local universities, he believes that all schools develop their own option-based program to improve campus safety.

“St. Louis County police will train every single adult staff member in a school district on their options,” Zavorka noted. “The program we use is the Four E’s, [which] stand for Educate, Evade, Escape or Engage.”

When undergoing individual on-the-spot training in summer, faculty will be taught basic lessons related to the Four E’s. These lessons may include reacting to a scene (educate), securing the area (evade), finding ways out (escape) or last ditch retaliation efforts (engage).

While these plans may have strong intentions to prevent shooting violence, Zavorka suggests that schools must feel comfortable carrying out such procedures and practice this drill more than once. Since police officers and firemen may be busy with other responsibilities in the case of an incident, the STL County police department will also teach trainees how to detect a suspected shooter before violence occurs and pay attention to signs like student depression or hazing.

“We have a strong working relationship with the Maryland Heights police department, and this training will be another piece of making our school prepared [in the case of an emergency],” said assistant principal Gene Grimshaw. “We are happy to take their expertise because this training is another piece of making our school safer.”

Law enforcement has been making contemporary efforts to reduce school shootings following recent incidents like the Sandy Hook tragedy and KSDK’s unethical safety inspection at Kirkwood. Realizing the rarity of such instances, Zavorka and other Pattonville officials want school safety to remain a large priority.

“The message is that from the State Legislatures on down, school safety is our top priority,” said Grimshaw. “Students and teachers want to come in a safe environment, and [Senate Bill 75] helps us maintain school safety.

With the support of national government agencies like the New York Police Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ASIRT hopes to reach out to practically all American public schools in upcoming years.

“What we need to take away from this is that [schools] should realize some problems they need to address,” Zavorka added. “At the very least, I recommend an option based program in every school because remember, the situation you are in could be a matter of life or death.”

To learn more about the recent passing of Senate Bill 75, visit the Missouri Senate Website.

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