August 18, 2023 - Fear, anxiety, and stress are emotions commonly associated with school violence and active shooter training. However, Point Arena schools recently adopted a different kind of program, designed to educate and empower not only teachers but also students to prevent and survive a violent event.
The H.E.R.O. Program stands for Hide, Escape, Run, Overcome and is based on the idea that students can be instrumental in not only feeling safe but also being safe in schools and their communities. The program was developed by Safe Kids Inc., a leading organization in active shooter response training. The program emphasizes the importance of situational awareness and provides teachers and students with the tools they need to make quick, informed decisions in volatile situations. It has been implemented in schools across the country, and Point Arena Schools is the latest to adopt the program with the assistance of the Mendocino Public Safety Foundation.
In 2019, the charitable Foundation launched a three-year pilot to test the effectiveness of this innovative program locally. Project partners are Mendocino County Office of Education (MCOE), Arena School Districts, Leggett Valley Unified School District, Round Valley Unified School District, and Safe Kids Inc. Entirely funded by Foundation donors, there is no cost to the schools for this pilot. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic caused some delay, but a restart is now well underway.
Teachers received trauma-informed training led by experts from Safe Kids Inc. and included both classroom instruction and hands-on activities. Teachers were taught not only how the H.E.R.O. concepts apply to them, but also how to teach their students through the use of included age-appropriate curriculum, which consists of lesson plans, narratives, and activities.
Point Arena Schools Superintendent Warren Galletti has already seen the positive impact of the H.E.R.O. Program since its implementation in January. Students are more aware and engaged in the conversation of safety while feeling safer on campus. "The topic of school safety is very important to us. Having not only our teachers, but also our students know how to stay safe at school and in our community has improved the overall sense of safety on our campuses."
"The H.E.R.O. Program is an important initiative that has the potential to transform the way schools approach student health and safety." said Adam Coughran, Safe Kids Inc. president. "By empowering students with the knowledge of how to stay safe in an age-appropriate way, the program is helping to create a generation of safe thinkers who are equipped with the skills they need to stay safe both in and out of the classroom."
While the program is focused on preventing and surviving violent incidents, it is also designed to promote a culture of safety and security. By empowering individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to respond to dangerous situations, the program helps to create a more resilient community. The implementation of the H.E.R.O. Program at Point Arena Schools is a testament to the school district's commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for its students. The program serves as a model for other schools looking to prioritize student health, safety, and well-being.
The Mendocino County pilot project is a result of the Mendocino Public Safety Foundation’s search since 2012 for an appropriate and meaningful response to the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Finding common ground in the H.E.R.O. program, the Foundation’s diverse board membership unanimously agreed to support this work, serving in the role of a tax-exempt charity with the mission of public safety. Based on a report of results, the Foundation will consider offering expansion of H.E.R.O. countywide. Donations are welcome at www.protectmendocino.org or mailed to P.O. Box 123, Ukiah, CA 95482.