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We call our educators and school staff “Immediate Responders,” as they are there before the First Responders if a bad thing happens at a school. Our Immediate Responders in schools truly are the Keepers of the Gate that prevent bad things from happening to our most precious resource, which is our children.

Each year we review projects and case studies from schools and school districts, as well as individual contributions to school safety that show our principles of training are put to work in actual circumstances. At the International School Safety Institute, each year we choose a staff at a school or school district and honor them with our annual Gatekeeper Award for school safety in recognition of their contributions to school safety. We also recognize individual achievements in school safety and safe school culture and climate. We’ll be awarding the 2018 Gatekeeper school and individual awards to some outstanding Immediate Responders at our annual school safety symposium October 9-11 in Carlsbad, CA. I’d like to take a moment to introduce them here.

2018 Gatekeeper School Award: Voyage Academy, Clinton, Utah

Principal Stacee Phillips and Director of Student Services Kami Coleman will be presented this award on the behalf of of their school. Stacee and Kami have been attending the ISSI Symposium since 2016, and have brought staff members to the conference since then. They began implementing programs in areas related to training, planning, and infrastructure target hardening at their school based on the presentations they attended at the symposiums. Their efforts in school safety are too numerous to list here, but we’ll be talking about them at this year’s symposium. Stacee best summed it up in her quote when she sent us her school’s list of accomplishments:

Voyage Academy has been a safety minded school from the first day our doors opened. Attending the International School Safety conference the past two years has greatly increased our knowledge and capacity to provide a safe learning environment for our students. Thank you for providing such an amazing conference each year. We look forward to attending this conference for years to come.”

2018 Gatekeeper Individual Award: Stephanie Guzman, Kern County Office of Education, Bakersfield, CA.

Stephanie is a school social worker, and most people in education don’t give enough credit to how important people in her role are to safe school culture and climate. This is an area often forgotten in school safety, as we have the ability to reach out to troubled youth before their behavior escalates to violence or dangers to themselves.

During a training session in Bakersfield, Stephanie told me about a case study where she took on the case of a male student who society had pretty much given up on. He’d been thrown out of school, his dad was in prison, law enforcement told her he was no good and couldn’t be saved, and the Parole and Probation Agency told her they would probably end up violating him and putting him in prison. Stephanie rose to the challenge and worked one-on-one with this student. He eventually got his high school diploma through an Adult Education program, and last I heard he was a functioning member of society. There is nothing to say that this student would have become a school killer, but absence of a strong adult role model is a commonality we find in all troubled youth, including the ones who commit acts of violence. Stephanie provided that adult connectivity to society for this young man, and might possibly have been the only adult in his life who hadn’t given up on him. Her efforts may have kept him off the streets, out of prison, or maybe even worse.

We created our Gatekeeper logo, who we affectionately call Otis, to reflect the dedication and tenacity our Immediate Responders in education display when they’re keeping our kids safe. The color yellow on Otis stands for his level of mental preparedness, his bulldog attitude reflects the same attitude a school staff member would have if someone was going to try to hurt their kids, the gate he is standing in front of is something no predator will ever get to while he is on duty, and his D4 medallion stands for Detect-Deter-Delay-Defeat, which it what we do to protect our kids if a bad thing comes to our school. We’re honoring these Gatekeeper award recipients at our 2018 conference but we’re also looking for who will be our award winners in 2019 when we’re back in Carlsbad for our symposium. Let us hear from you about your efforts in school safety, because we learn from you so others can learn from us.

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