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School safety summit to be Feb. 6

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON — The killing of 20 children and six staff members at a Connecticut school last month has prompted a summit in Charleston to examine how West Virginia schools can prevent school violence and prepare in case it happens.

The West Virginia Safe Schools Summit, to be held beginning at 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Culture Center in Charleston's State Capitol Complex, is being hosted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

"The goal of this summit is to answer two very practical questions," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in a news release. "First, how do we identify potentially violent situations in schools and handle them before something bad happens? Second, what should our schools and first responders be doing to prepare in case the unthinkable comes to pass?"

The summit will feature a morning address by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired West Point psychology professor who is considered an expert on the causes of mass shootings and school violence. Grossman is a former nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction for his work on the psychology of violence.

Also, three panels of experts from around the state will address issues in school safety. The first panel will focus on how to identify and address potentially violent situations. The second will concentrate on planning by schools and by law enforcement agencies for what to do if violence occurs. The third will emphasize the perspectives of principals, teachers, counselors, law enforcement officers and students.

Following the summit, participants will develop a written set of school safety recommendations for the education and law enforcement communities.

"The tragedy last month at Sandy Hook Elementary was heartbreaking, and it's still very much on all our minds," Goodwin said. "This summit is a chance to develop specific steps that we can take, right now, at the local level, to prevent school violence and to be as prepared as possible."

The summit is open to educators, law enforcement personnel and the public, Goodwin's office said, but seating is limited so those interested in attending were encouraged to register as soon as possible. To register, go to the website www.wvsafeschools.org.

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