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School health professionals learn what is and isn’t working to keep students safe

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HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- More than 280 north Alabama school health professionals came together to discuss the issues impacting students Friday. Things like school safety, bullying, adolescent substance abuse, mental health, and suicide.

For the third year school health professionals, like counselors, nurses, social workers, school resource officers came together to learn about evidence and research-based approaches to make students safer.

"In the 1970s you wouldn't see this conference. You wouldn't see police officers and mental health sitting down together, looking forward together," said Michael Dorn, the Executive Director of Safe Havens International.

Dorn said schools are safer than in the past. But he found there are some safety practices that are doing more harm than good.

"A lot of the current active shooter training programs are actually causing deaths and serious injuries," he said. "When we test them with real-life, real-time scenarios, people with those type of training programs, many of them, not all, they perform worse than people with no training at all. They have delayed reaction times, they do things to make the situation worse. They're very popular, they sound great, but they don't work very well and they are causing death."

Dorn said one thing that is proven to work is thoughtful student supervision. It helps saves lives in violent situations, bullying, natural disasters, and suicides.

"I think that in the past suicide has been such a taboo subject, it's been something we haven't wanted to talk about. Through SPEAK, we're hoping to give those kids a voice and give them the right things to say so that they know the right things to do to prevent that death, that is so preventable," said Anna Manning, the SPEAK Coordinator with the Huntsville Hospital Foundation

The school health professionals will learn about proven steps to help keep students safe. Manning said one thing anyone can do is get the SPEAK app.

"It has a list on your phone where you check off warning signs you might be seeing in a loved one. And then it gives you a direct response of what to say, what not to say, what to do immediately, phone numbers to call," she said,

She said one of the most important things for young people to know is that if they talk about it, they can heal.

The executive director of Safe Havens International said that while it may not seem like it, schools in the United States are the safest in the world. And conferences like the one today will continue to make them safer.

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