WEAU Town Hall: School Safety

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Tuesday night, “community” was the key word that came from our WEAU Town Hall discussing school safety. The topic has been a highlight in recent news from the Parkland Florida shooting to last week's Santa Fe school shooting.

“Personally, growing up in the climate I have, I don’t feel very safe [at school], but I think it’s very harsh to blame it on the school district themselves because this issue is so more complex than what we give it credit for,” said Abbie Green.

Green, a junior from Eau Claire North High School was among 7 panelists at Tuesday night's town hall.
Green spoke honestly, sharing that hard truth of today's world.

“Our generation is a generation that’s grown up where school shootings are normalized,” Green said. “We grew up having to do drills of intruder alerts; we grew up knowing there’s a huge threat that someone could shoot up the school. Growing up with that threat and that thought in your head seriously influences the way we look at our legislation, how we're going to combat it. I think that’s part of why our generation is so fired up and so ready to make change because it shouldn’t be normalized. This isn’t ok to grow up living like this and looking at that.”

Green pointed toward legislation as being a key to helping this issue. Local political leaders, including Rep. Kathy Bernier (R - Lake Hallie) and Rep. Dana Wachs (D - Eau Claire) were at the event to help answer some of those questions.

"I think this needs a multi-pronged approach: background checks, reinstating the 48-hour waiting periods, and making darn sure people who are getting these guns can handle it," Wachs said.

“As you know we put $100 million into school safety upgrades, we created an Office of School Safety, hopefully that’ll be an avenue for the SRO’s to work with the Department of Justice, DPI and other agencies will be working together on school safety plans,” said Bernier.

But the issue is not a one-size-fit all according to Jeni Gronemus, a behavioral health clinical coordinator for HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s Hospitals.

“There’s not an easy answer,” Gronemus said. ”There are many different factors that come into play. Research has looked into this, ‘what is the profile of a school shooter?’ And there isn’t one. There are over 45 identified traits or behaviors, but there’s not just a basic profile we're looking at.”

Owner of Marc-On Shooting and gun expert, Dan Marcon said he’s had more people coming to his business to learn how to protect themselves.

“We have kids as young as 9 coming in with their parents learning how to shoot firearms,” Marcon said. “We actually hold firearm training classes so kids don’t find their parents firearm and watch YouTube to learn how to use it. We want them to know the dangers and proper procedures.”

Looking back at schools, Superintendent for the Eau Claire Area School District Dr. Mary Ann Hardebeck says one of the goals is working with students to make them feel connected.

“We put a lot of emphasis on working with our students,” Hardebeck said. “We find for whatever reason, and maybe it’s their generation, they take drills and safety very seriously.”

Hardebeck adding they've had a great collaboration with Eau Claire Police for more than 30 years.

Deputy Chief Matt Rokus saying they are actively training for these types of situations, recently participating in training on UW-Eau Claire’s campus.

“The training involved over one hundred law enforcement officers throughout the region, EMS and health care providers,” Rokus said. “We focused on how to respond to an active shooter incident, to stop a threat while it's happening, how to rescue victims, and get those victims emergency care they need.”

Panelists also noted the importance of school resource officers playing a role in the solution.

“We need to prevent this, and take the responsibility to take preventative action and make some change because what we have right now simply isn't working,” Green added.

“I hope we do better,” said Lee Hennick, a retired army veteran who was in the audience. “It’s about tomorrow not about yesterday. We can do better and I’m so proud of the children around this country standing up. It chokes me up. They’re real true heroes.”

To watch it when it airs live (tonight at 7 p.m.), click here.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) --The mantra of WEAU 13 News is “Community First” and we are looking to bring this to life with an upcoming town hall discussion.

We are planning a special town hall forum to discuss safety in our schools. This past school year has painfully shown – both around the nation and here in the Chippewa Valley – this is a topic of highest importance and one which has many people searching for answers.

The panel will consist of:
- Mary Ann Hardebeck / ECASD Superintendent
- Matt Rokus / Deputy Chief - Eau Claire Police
- Abbie Green / Junior - Eau Claire North
- State Rep. Kathy Bernier – (R) Lake Hallie
- State Rep. Dana Wachs – (D) Eau Claire
- Dan Marcon / Owner - Marc-On Shooting
- Jenni Gronemus / HSHS Behavioral Health Clinical Coordinator

Our hope is to lay out as many questions on this as possible and the planned panel will offer differing viewpoints on the topic.

There will also be a chance for you to submit a question for our panel and it may be answered.

The one-hour town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22nd at 7 p.m. from the Eau Claire Children’s Theater at 1814 N. Oxford Ave. If you want to be in the audience, we ask for you to be there by 6:45 p.m.

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