IRSC School of Education Presents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission - Indian River State College
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IRSC School of Education Presents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission

IRSC School of Education Presents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission

August 30, 2021 Suzanne Seldes

Indian River State College (IRSC) presented its Future Educators Response to Emergency Situations (FERTES) program to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. The commission met on Monday, September 27 at the BBT Center in Sunrise, Florida.

IRSC Presents FERTES program to the Marjory Stoneman Douglass Public Safety Commission

The College and its collaborative partners have spent nearly two years developing the curriculum and delivering it to Bachelor’s Degree students in the IRSC School of Education in Fort Pierce, Florida. The final modules will be complete in spring 2022 at which point the collaborative expects to make the specialized training available to educational institutions throughout Florida and the United States.

The MSD shootings were a driving factor establishing FERTES—a program providing the skills and tools needed in an active shooter situation.

Developed in cooperation with the IRSC School of Education, IRSC Public Safety, and professionals from law enforcement agencies and local school districts spanning four counties, the FERTES core curriculum is delivered through classroom instruction and practical application.

The collaborative has created a model program that they soon will replicate throughout the U.S.

Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry says the program is the answer to the question of what future educators need to know as they teach in a post-Marjory Stoneman Douglas world.

“It’s the mission of our School of Education to prepare our students for every possible situation,” notes Kelly Amatucci, Ed.D., Dean of the IRSC School of Education.  “Our future teachers really need to be aware, be present. They need to pay attention to how they are arranging their classrooms, something we consider widely in our classroom management class.

“Our goal is to provide pieces of this training throughout their Bachelor's program and help them be as prepared as possible. When they get to the student teaching level, this is where the simulation happens.”

Major Chris Cicio of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office notes “we know these are skills that people are going to need in the world we live in.”

The program draws upon lessons learned from past school shooting incidents, including Sandy Hook, Columbine High School and MSD.

Case in point: after Columbine, there was a push for ‘lockdown’ only.

“Human nature is to either run from danger or—if it’s close enough—to fight against danger,” Cicio says. “Since Columbine, we've learned we have to empower people to be able to do one of those two things, which is part of that ‘run-hide-fight’ curriculum.

“The scenarios are designed so they could see the relevance of the techniques we’re teaching, take that back to their own home schools and utilize it there.”

It’s also foundational enough to be applied in non-school settings as well, he adds.

Chief Brian Reuther, director of security for St. Lucie County Schools, notes that through FERTES, future educators have upfront training as soon as they walk into the classroom for the first day.

FERTES transcends ‘run, hide, fight’ to equip future educators to understand pathways to violence, and to know how recognize signs and symptoms and how to track them, says Touchberry.

“We want them to understand the mandates the State of Florida has placed on school districts and what it is that their local school district is having to do,” he adds. “We want to put as much academics as we can behind this. We want smart teachers in the classroom with as much knowledge as possible.”

Program organizers also are including mental health aspects into the program as to prepare for the social and emotional needs of students and teachers as well as their physical well-being. Such preparation is intended to equip student teaching candidates not only to react by locking and barricading a door, but also locating signs and symptoms and precursors for violence and abuse among students.

IRSC President Dr. Timothy Moore notes the layers of knowledge, skills and capabilities being taught through FERTES provide “lifelong skills in the era of terrorism.”

Moore says he understands that parents want to put their children in protective bubbles, but one must prepare for the reality of a world much different from past decades.

“As a military guy, I can tell you that you have to train harder than the way you're going to have to fight,” he says. “We want to put them in immersive conditions to where everything's going on:  fire alarms, sprinklers, no communications and all kinds of conflicting information.”

Additionally, the COVID pandemic has produced isolation, depression and other mental health issues, Moore says, adding that teachers are part of that first detection in what’s happening with the child.

The College says that development and testing of the final program modules will occur this spring.

“At IRSC, we take a comprehensive approach to preparing our future educators and FERTES is an essential part of our curriculum,” concludes Amatucci. “We look forward to sharing this unique program to help future educators, everywhere, be effective in protecting their students and themselves.”

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