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Hundreds of Maine educators meet for School Safety Summit

The event lasts from June 21 to June 23 and discusses best practices for educators looking for ways to keep students and staff safer in the upcoming school year.

WINDHAM, Maine — More than 300 Maine teachers, principals, superintendents, and school resource officers met in Windham on Wednesday for day two of the three-day-long Maine School Safety Summit that was prepared by the Maine Department of Education

The summit's focus is on making schools safer for students and staff.

With the rise in mass shootings and the recent tragedy in Uvalde, this annual school safety summit carries extra weight, according to Maine DOE School Safety Center Director Jonathan Shapiro.

"Now is the time to plan, plan, plan and to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate because those are key foundational aspects to school safety," Shapiro said. "I know everybody wants to talk tactics right off the bat but the reality is you have to have foundational conversations and alignment of mission and purpose before you get into those more technical aspects of school safety."

For Biddeford High School Principal Martha Jacques, every year is an opportunity to make school a safer place.

"I wake up every morning thinking about how are we going to go into that day [...] how are we going to keep students safe," Jacques said.

At Biddeford High School, Jaques said her faculty and staff meet monthly to talk about best practices. 

Additionally, Jacques says a large-scale meeting like the Maine School Safety Summit at Windham High School makes an even bigger impact.

"With 27 school shootings since January this year nationwide, I think as we look at the focus moving forward, we need to look at the public safety," Jacques said.

Out-of-state best practice leaders say Maine is setting an example by bringing hundreds of educators together.

"School safety is everyone's responsibility, it's not up to the police, we as adults need to delegate ... we can find adults in their community to protect them," Lisa Thurau, the executive director of Strategies for Youth based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said.

The goal of Thurau's organization, she says, is to bridge the gap between students and law enforcement to create positive interactions. Thurau adds that the Maine School Safety Summit does good for the community by bringing school resource officers to the table to build trust with students.

“If you have that positive approach to young people, you won’t see high rates of criminalization which really derailed some kids' lives permanently," Thurau said.

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