CSSS trainings prepare educators to prevent and respond to active shooter incidents

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April 1, 2021 by HCDE Communications

This week, two virtual training events – Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event (CRASE) and Youth Mental Health First Aid – were held by Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS).

Both trainings, made possible through the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence grant from the Department of Justice’s School Violence Prevention Program, are designed to improve school security by providing students and teachers with the tools they need to recognize, respond quickly to, and help prevent acts of violence. The grant was created under the (STOP) School Violence Act after the Parkland school shooting in Florida in 2018.

The CRASE course, designed and built on the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” strategy developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) at Texas State University in 2004, provides strategies, guidance, and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter/active aggressor event or other critical incidents. Sgt. Jeffery McGowen from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office led a group of over 30 educators in the 2-hour training.

“We hope that this training will help people think about active shooter events and be aware that it can happen in any work or school environment,” said Dennis Calloway with the CSSS. “The challenge is that when we’re sitting at our desk when it’s nice and quiet when you can think calmly, you think you might know what to do, but when you hear something [like gunfire], you have to be a little bit more aware of where you are, and you have to take action quickly.”

However, responding to acts of violence is just as important as preventing acts of violence. For this reason, the STOP School Violence grant also calls for school officials to intervene when mentally ill individuals threaten school safety.

“We all go through times of emotional distress,” said Cierra Nickerson, Climate and Culture Specialist with the CSSS. “We want to make sure that our teachers are equipped, especially now Covid-19. Our students are being asked to be very flexible. Their learning environments have changed, their home environments may have changed, and they may be going through some challenging situations. When we equip our teachers to recognize and be able to respond appropriately, we’re helping to mitigate harm and promote safety within our schools.”

Offered in partnership with the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health for the first time this school year, Youth Mental Health First Aid training teaches caring professionals and caregivers who regularly interact with young people how to identify, support, and respond to a young person in crisis and non-crisis mental health situations.

“Think of what physical first aid looks like,” said Nickerson. “When you cut yourself or fall and hurt yourself on campus, there are people who can patch you up and put a Band-Aid on you, but you may still need to have the school nurse look at you for further evaluation. That’s what this training is. Individuals who obtain a Youth Mental Health First Aid certification are the Band-Aids who can intervene before you get professional help. They don’t get certified as counselors, but they’re able to assist and respond before the counselor is available.”

Due to the pandemic, this course was carefully adapted so that caregivers could identify mental health warning signs when interacting with youth in virtual spaces. This in-demand training is offered several times during the year.

Adult Mental Health First Aid training will be offered on April 28. The Youth Mental Health First Aid training will be offered again on May 19. To enroll, visit https://b2j.short.gy/hcdeworkshops.

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