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It Takes a Village...

By Becky Lewis
February 2013

The 1996 publication of It Takes a Village by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton brought the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" into public consciousness. Lt. Patrick Kissane, of the Ft. Lee (N.J.) Police Department, says it also takes a village to keep a child safe. Law enforcement needs to partner with other stakeholders such as school administrators, teachers and parents on school safety efforts. Kissane uses "It Can Happen Here," a 2010 video produced by the Weapons and Protective Systems Technology Center of Excellence (WPSTC), as one tool to help promote that message.

"If you look at the SRO [school resource officer] program, it’s just one piece of the pie. There are other stakeholders who need to be involved in changing the culture of a school, in preparing with practice drills, in encouraging reporting," Kissane says. "The video helps bring the message to everyone that they need to be prepared."

He uses "It Can Happen Here" in presentations to principals and community leaders, and all newly hired SROs in New Jersey receive a copy to take back to their schools. Kissane also serves as the president of the New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers and as a member of the New Jersey Governor’s School Safety Task Force.

According to Drs. Timothy Brungart and John Leathers, co-producers of "It Can Happen Here," the documentary is designed to put a face on school safety by informing and encouraging school safety stakeholders to prepare for emergencies. Released in 2009, the video focuses on the Columbine and Platte Canyon school shootings in Colorado and the valuable lessons that communities can learn from these tragedies.

Produced by the WPSTC for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the 60-minute video includes interviews with victims’ parents, school administrators and local law enforcement. It also examines shootings at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, other U.S. schools and schools in other countries, and discusses technology solutions that can help law enforcement, including less-lethal technologies, metal detectors and enhanced use of surveillance cameras. In addition, the video offers a list of resources such as websites, reference materials and contacts for help with writing and implementing school safety plans.

Since its release, "It Can Happen Here" has been used as supplemental material in New Jersey’s mandatory 40-hour training for SROs and their chiefs, says Kissane, who served as a member of the NIJ School Safety Technology Working Group that provided subject-matter expertise during video development.

"The beauty of this tape is that the message is just as powerful and strong now, perhaps even more so, than it was when it was initially produced," Kissane says. "Around the country, everyone is consumed with school safety and they’re talking about the need for more police or more armed guards, but it takes a lot more than that. It really does take a village."

You can download “It Can Happen Here” from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u32GH3-w4IU or order a DVD by mail at http://srtbrc.org/form/view.php?id=9.