100+ school leaders, law enforcement, community partners attend BCIU School Safety & Security Summit

National advocate Max Schachter gives emotional keynote on lessons from Parkland tragedy.

School safety and security was the critical focus as more than 100 school leaders, law enforcement, emergency responders, community partners, elected officials, Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) representatives, and school board members from Berks County and across the region came together for the Berks County School Safety & Security Summit held April 24, 2024, at the Penn State Berks campus.

The full-day event spotlighted the continued commitment to prioritizing school safety protocols, training, and resources to safeguard students, staff, and the community.

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The summit covered a range of crucial safety topics including preventing the sextortion of minors, child abuse investigations, and substance abuse issues in schools. Additional information was shared throughout the morning regarding the Community Anti-Threats Officer (CATO) Program and the Pennsylvania School Safety Institute (PennSSI).

Photo courtesy of Berks County Intermediate Unit: Max Schachter, Keynote Speaker, Founder and Executive Director, Safe Schools for Alex, in front of a photo collage of his son Alex who was one of the 17 innocent lives tragically taken in the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

The event concluded with an emotional keynote from Max Schachter, a nationally recognized school safety advocate. Mr. Schachter’s 14-year-old son Alex was one of the 17 innocent lives tragically taken in the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

On the topic of school safety and security, Max Schachter shared, “If the students and staff don’t make it home from school every day, nothing else matters… You have to remain vigilant. You can’t have the mentality of ‘it’s not going to happen in my community.’ School safety is not a one-and-done thing; you have to keep doing it… I’m glad that Berks County is taking this seriously and prioritizing this issue because it’s the most important thing. You have to prioritize safety and security before education because you can’t teach dead kids.”

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When asked about his ‘why’ for advocating for and speaking on this topic, Mr. Schachter stated, “My mission is to keep Alex’s memory alive, and I do that by telling Alex’s story… I want as many people as possible to know what happened in Parkland so we can work to prevent it and correct those failures in other communities around the country.”

Russell Del Rosario, BCIU Safety and Security Program Administrator, reaffirmed the county’s commitment, “Ensuring our students’ safety at school is the highest priority. This summit represents the commitment and collaboration needed to create learning environments where students and staff feel safe and secure. We are grateful to all of our presenters and participants who took time out of their busy schedules to prioritize this critical topic.”

Berks County Intermediate Unit Executive Director Dr. Jill Hackman, Berks County District Attorney John Adams, and PDE Program Director for the Office for Safe Schools Dr. Scott Kuren welcomed attendees, praising the collaborative approach to addressing school safety and security challenges, and reiterated that safety and security is the top priority in our schools and community.

The Berks County School Safety & Security Summit was a vital step in an ongoing, countywide initiative to enhance coordination, training, and protocols to protect Berks County schools.

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