“R U OK?,” he asked.
“I love U guys,” 16-year-old Emily messaged back. That was the last time her parents would hear from her.
Emily Keyes was shot and killed by a rogue gunman who took hostages at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado in September 2006.
Last night I went to a neighborhood elementary school to listen to a keynote presentation on school safety from John-Michael Keyes, Emily’s father, now executive director of the I Love U Guys Foundation.
John-Michael’s story is tragic. There wasn’t a dry eye in that small school library as he talked about his beautiful daughter and how her life was taken that fateful day.
I suppose it’s a coincidence this keynote happened the same week Sue Klebold’s story made international headlines.
Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters who murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999. It’s not often you hear the perspective of a parent of a shooter and Sue Klebold’s story is equally as tragic for so many different reasons.
Having heard Sue’s interview on NPR just two nights earlier, while I was listening to John-Michael’s story I couldn’t help but realize the paradox.
What John-Michael Keyes and his wife, Ellen, have done since Emily’s death is truly remarkable. Using the I Love You Guys Foundation, John-Michael has created and published the Standard Response Protocol.
The SRP defines an action-based uniform response to all types of incidents from school shootings to weather events. It has been adopted by 17,000 schools nationwide including our own Boulder Valley School District. John-Michael’s work has unequivocally made thousands of schools and millions of students safer, period. Why is no one talking about this?
“You think it can’t happen here. Let me tell you a story about ‘here’.” — John-Michael Keyes
John-Michael opened his presentation by saying “You think it can’t happen here. Let me tell you a story about ‘here’.” The small town of Bailey in the foothills outside of Denver is “more of a concept than a town”.
With a population of only 17,000, no one imagined a school shooting would’ve ever happened in Bailey.
No one wants to talk about school shootings. No one wants to take away the assault rifles. No one wants to take action to prevent these preventable events.
Last fall, at school orientation for my kindergarten son, the administrators and teachers talked about the Common Core curriculum, what field trips they’ll take during the year, what the average day looks like, but not a word was spoken about school safety or the SRP.
As parents, we’re trusting these administrators and teachers with not only the academic foundation but also the physical well-being of our children. How can we be comforted in knowing the classroom teacher will do what needs to be done when crisis strikes?
“We practiced hiding our in class today, in case a wild animal gets out of the zoo”
The first indication our school was actively preparing today’s youth — including my 6-year-old son—for the possibility of a school lockdown was the day my son came home and talked about their “hiding practice.”
A key part of the SRP is to use age-appropriate direct and honest communication about what’s going on. Practicing locking doors, turning lights out and hiding in silence in the corner of the room in case a wild animal escapes from the zoo is how you do that with kindergarteners.
I’m new to this “having kids in school” thing. Like all of us parents, I want to know my kids are safe from the unthinkable. I want to believe it can’t happen here but I know we simply can’t stick our heads in the sand.
We have to be strong, confront this and plan for what sometimes feels like an eventuality. I want to know what my school and district are doing to keep kids safe and adapt to the ever-changing safety landscape.
We all teach our kids about the danger of fire. Evacuate. Drop and crawl.
We are not teaching our kids what to do when they come under fire.