Two experienced Bonneville educators have turned their attention to statewide school safety issues.
Over the past two years, Guy Bliesner and Brian Armes have built up their consulting firm, Educators Eyes. They market their services under the slogan “School safety, security and risk management for educators by educators” for good reason.
Bliesner is a public school teacher and coach who spent eight years as the health, safety and security coordinator for Bonneville. Armes began his education career 25 years ago as a second grade teacher and went on to serve as principal of three Bonneville elementary schools.
Both served on Idaho school safety task forces; Armes in 2013 and Bliesner beginning in 2006.
Following the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012, they partnered with state officials to complete threat assessment studies of 74 Idaho schools and left their positions in Bonneville.
Through Educators Eyes, Bliesner and Armes seek to help not only public schools, but also private and religious schools develop emergency operation plans, threat assessments and other security tools that tie in emergency responders.
“By and large, the schools have emergency operations plans and charts that were written after (the) Columbine (school shooting in 1999),” Bliesner said. “But they may have no way to execute them or they are just sitting in a file. That’s where we help.”
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Although the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings led to national conversations about school safety, Armes and Bliesner don’t limit their focus to shootings. Instead, they want to help local schools prepare for any number of more-likely emergencies, such as noncustodial parents trying to leave school with a child, unknown adults on campus, natural disasters, chemical spills, crashes and other potential issue.
A big part of their goal has been to start common dialogues between neighboring schools, different law enforcement and emergency services agencies and local government.
“That’s always been our goal to tie those disparate groups together and to talk about those same common problems,” Armes said. “Interestingly enough, that doesn’t happen very often.”
What Armes and Bliesner learn is sometimes sobering. They were part of the state team that found that unauthorized people were able to enter 71 of the 74 schools through places other than the designated main entrance.
More recently, they worked throughout Canyon County, contracting with local schools and school resource officers to launch a common communications system using donated surplus law enforcement radios.
They also contracted with Canon County Office of Emergency Management and Nampa schools for a two-day emergency-planning workshop.
Canyon County Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. David Schorzman described the workshops as an important, initial step in developing emergency plans that can be carried out in a predicable manner at different locations.
“What we’re trying to do is make it simpler so a teacher in a classroom can execute those things instead of trying to worry about the difference between an earthquake or tornado versus flooding and either staying in the building or evacuating the building,” Schorzman said.
Nampa School Resource Officer Sgt. Curt Shankel agreed.
“We’re all able to really get on the same page when it comes to school safety,” Shankel said.
Moving forward, Armes and Bliesner plan to revisit the 74 schools they completed threat assessments for to see what changes were made. They also hope to partner with their local legislators to create a statewide school safety resource center — a service they say 12 other states established.