From left to right: Jeff Connor, Thomas Haine, Deborah Humphrey, Rob Werden, Kip Heinle, Eric Arnold and Nathan McVicker.EDWARDSVILLE - School administrators gathered for the biannual Madison County School Safety Summit on June 11, 2024.

“This was created to offer the educational community, the law enforcement community and the mental health community a chance to network and stay up to date on cutting-edge research and technology. We meet twice a year to mitigate the risk to our schools,” explained Rob Werden, the Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools.

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Panel participants and featured speakers presented during the summit. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine encouraged school districts to contact law enforcement at the first sign of criminal activity. He noted that administrators who conduct a preliminary investigation or interrogation can actually hinder the State’s Attorney’s office and law enforcement officers.

Madison County Sheriff Jeff Connor echoed this. Both Haine and Connor noted that the law enforcement officers and the State’s Attorney’s office will work with school districts.

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“Just know that when you contact law enforcement and you deal with prosecutors in our office, we take a holistic approach. We take a strong approach. But we also understand that this is also always a multivariate question,” Haine added. “So don’t be reluctant to contact us. We don’t take a hamfisted approach.”

Deborah Humphrey with the Madison County Mental Health Department said that two-thirds of the crisis calls they receive are youth callers. She noted that mental health is still a major concern in the school districts, and the Mental Health Department is eager to coordinate with schools and act as a resource.

Kip Heinle, a retired Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy and school resource officer (SRO), spoke about the importance of SROs in schools. He was followed by Eric Arnold, the program director for Illinois School and Campus Safety, who discussed prevention and response to active shooter situations. Nathan McVicker, founder of Guard911 and Safe Haven advocate, provided a demonstration of how laminate windows can delay or prevent entry by school shooters.

Werden said the goal of the summit was to increase conversations about school safety and provide resources for school administrators in the Riverbend and Metro East community.

“We work diligently to reduce the impact of and be prepared when and if tragedy does happen,” Werden said.

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