Taking a proactive approach

Local law enforcement and school officials respond to the Friday shooting in Connecticut, and emphasize the importance of communication and training
Parents went home and held their children a little tighter after the news of the senseless and tragic shooting in Connecticut Friday.
   Second in magnitude only to the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, the tragedy took the lives of 20 young children and eight adults. Such a sobering incident affects all Americans — young and old — and leaves everyone asking how and why such a tragedy could happen.
   “Mylene and I were horrified to learn of this senseless tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the children, teachers, and families,” expressed U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on Friday. “Our entire nation mourns this senseless loss. As parents, we know that there are no words to adequately express our sorrow at today’s horrific events.”
   Prineville Police Department Captain Michael Boyd, a father himself, was direct in his reaction to the incident.
   “I have seen such evil in my career, but this trumps anything I have ever seen.” he exclaimed.
   Boyd was in California in 1992, when, as a law enforcement officer, he responded to a school shooting that involved fatalities. He has used his training and past experiences to assist the local schools, along with other law enforcement staff, to engage in active shooter training every year.
   “We have very frank discussions with the schools about all those things, and with the teachers,” he explained.
   Boyd said that all the school staff he has worked with share the same passion as local law enforcement for keeping kids safe.
   Prineville Police Department Chief Eric Bush said that some of the best results they have had in helping create a safer environment at schools have come from having their School Resource Officers (SROs) in the schools. In the previous three years prior to 2010, these positions were cut. They were reinstated in 2010 due to a federal grant.
   Bush emphasized that kids will almost always come forward when they know it’s serious.
   “Having the SROs in the schools and maintaining that relationship with school staff is paramount in preventing these things from happening,” added Bush. “For years now, Prineville has been a leader in these concepts and we have regularly trained our officers and school staff in how to react to such instances. We hope that we can learn from this tragedy and continue to improve the safety of our children and all our citizens”.
   Crook County High School Principal Rocky Miner stressed that the interaction between students and staff is incredibly important.
   “Our teachers do a wonderful job of building those positive relationships and connections,” said Miner. “Stacy (Smith) and I have focused on hiring teachers with that ability and desire for 13 years now. The hundreds of students, 300 at the middle school and 300 at the high school per year for the last three years, have gone through the Challenge Day trainings, and it is also one of our proactive measures we take to open communications.”
   Boyd added that parents need to listen to their kids and talk to their kids about options, and have those “what if” conversations with them. He noted that local law enforcement follow up on multiple tips from off-the-cuff and troublesome comments made by young people every year.
   “We have been very consistent about contacting the child, contacting the parents, and checking their rooms and any place that there is access for weapons,” he added.
   In homes where parents do have access to weapons, local law enforcement provides free gun locks.
   “We take this stuff incredibly seriously,” he said.
   Crook County School District Superintendent Duane Yecha commented Friday that Crook County is probably the best district and community he has lived in when it comes to cultivating a safe environment for students.
   “From the recent challenge days to the suicide training we conducted this fall, and with all of the positive behavior supports we are really very active,” said Yecha. “Further, we will review school safety with principals this week.”