Former Sandy Hook teacher helps encourage safety in schools

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HIGHLAND FALLS, NY – Ahead of the five year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Tragedy, a survivor is teaming up with a SWAT team driven company, to raise awareness.

Armoured One and Former Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis held an active school shooter training at James I O'Neill High School in Highland Falls, New York, Tuesday night.

“It can happen anywhere at any time,” Armoured One CEO and Co-Founder Tom Czyz said, “And anyone can be a victim.”

Roig-DeBellis helped save the lives of 15 first-grade students when she made the brave decision to hide them in the bathroom of her unlocked classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on December 14, 2012.

“My classroom being the first in our school I knew immediately that what I was hearing was a weapon or multiple weapons shattering windows, bringing terror, pain, sadness, and immeasurable loss to a school full of light and love,” she said.

This year marks five years since 20 children and 6 adults were killed in Newtown.

“For me and I think for most survivors every day is the anniversary,” Roig-DeBellis said. “Every second of the day is the anniversary, you know it’s always there, it doesn't go anywhere and so you just learn how to live with it.”

The former first grade teacher said in the time following the tragedy her sense of safety, security and independence was completely gone. It was when she began focusing her energy away from questions that can’t be answered that she began the process of moving forward.

“I would encourage anyone to shift their energy and focus on questions that can be answered,” she said. “For myself those two questions were how do I make sure this day does not define us? How do we get our control back?”

Shortly after, she started her nonprofit Classes4Classes, whose mission is to teach children the power of kindness and compassion through their ability to create positive change for others.

In 2015, her book was published Choosing Hope: Moving Forward From Life’s Darkest Hours.

Tuesday night is the first time Roig-DeBellis teamed up with Armoured One, to share her first-hand account as part of the active shooter training.

“Awareness is so key in these horrific situations of knowing that you do have a choice of how to respond and react and what you can do in these situations,” she said.

Armoured One’s training was created by active and retired SWAT team members, military, former secret service, FBI Agents, psychologists and teachers. They work with all types of organizations on situational awareness but put a prime focus is on safety in schools.

The group “studies the history of attacks on schools, while implementing new products, training, preparedness plans and assessments to help school administration to be proactive against attacks.”

Tuesday’s event was called “8 minutes,” because Czyz said the average length of an Active Shooter Incident is 8 minutes and after the incident has begun, on average, someone is shot every 8 seconds.

Czyz went through a presentation which included hands-on scenarios, using fake guns to show educators how to approach an active shooter in a school.

“It’s no longer a time when you can pretend this isn't gonna happen,” he said.

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