SOE hosts school safety conference

Ali Smith, Arts and Leisure Editor

The School of Education hosted a school safety conference in Palumbo Saturday, featuring guest speakers from across Erie County prepared to educate future teachers on the reality of school safety.  

The event was put on by students Addyson Vavick, senior secondary education and biology major, and Alexa Harding, senior early childhood, and special education major, and overseen by Janice Whiteman, the director of the School of Education.  

One of the guest speakers was corporal Jeremy Markham from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. Officer Markham is a school resource officer for the Northeast School District and spoke about his role as a police presence on campus, and how he became an integral part of the North East community.  

Another speaker, Gannon alumni Matthew Parker, came from the Erie School District where he now serves as Supervisor of School and Community Safety for Erie Public Schools. 

He has law enforcement, EMT and fire training, although his passion for schools began with secondary education.  

His main objective was emphasizing the prevalence of the issue of school safety and security, especially right here in the city of Erie, and that this is not limited to school shootings. 

Parker noted that this all comes down to funding. 

Speaker Conor Dawley, education and outreach coordinator for The Highmark Caring Place also attended the conference to talk about how educators can support their students through the ongoing process of grief.  

The final seminar speaker was Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences & professor of psychology at Penn State Behrend. Hetzel-Riggin presented a mini-lesson on what trauma, whether it be from abuse or traumatic events like school shootings, affects brain development. 

These conversations are an important part of creating safe school environments and informed educators.  

This is crucial now more than ever in the wake of increased gun violence in our school communities and beyond.