GEORGETOWN, Delaware — Parent John-Michael Keyes is no stranger to how chaotic and tense the aftermath of a shooting can be. He lost his daughter in a school shooting in Colorado and, following the incident, he wanted to find ways to help schools that might be going through such a situation.
“It was really 2009 that we saw a vacuum in crisis response and it’s in a common language to communicate what the crisis is and how to respond to it,” Keyes said.
He started the “I Love U Guys Foundation” where he developed a standard response protocol giving schools steps on how they can get through crisis events such as tornadoes, fires and acts of violence.
“So who better than to bring them here and train people in our school districts and our charter schools to take that back and start their own district,” Douglas Scheer of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency’s Comprehensive School Safety Program said.
Part of this is teaching these places how to bring students back to their parents after the incident, especially since this reunification process can be hectic and emotionally charged.
“It’s important that we bring students together with responsibility, in the event of active violence we may need to include psychological first aid and that’s complicated enough that we don’t want to make it up on the spot,” Keyes said. .
And this reunification exercise was shown Friday in Georgetown to different groups, including school officials, first responders and mental health professionals.
“We split the group into three teams, the students, the parents and the reunification team,” Keyes said. “What we don’t do is pretend and act that created the cause for reunification, today it’s about learning the method.”
Event leaders told us that while this training provided attendees with hands-on experience, it also filled a gap.
“Our school safety plan has about 75 appendices and there’s a very short section on how to do reunification,” Scheer said. “It was just a matter of setting the tables, they’re going in, everyone’s going to be fine, and that’s just not the reality, there’s a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of anxiety attached to that.”
“They need to know that we’re all in this together for the benefit of families and students,” Scheer said.
DEMA’s School Safety Program was able to hold these trainings in every county in Delaware to help promote statewide adoption of the Standard Method of Reunification.