Rob Evans is no rookie when it comes to school and campus safety. In 2006, he led a group of officers into Essex Elementary School in response to an active shooter.
He described the multi-agency response as the unfortunate reality of what law enforcement must train for these days.
“Everybody knew the same tactics, everybody was operating under the same framework and they just went in and responded as they should,” he said. “It certainly highlighted for me, and I’m sure others in the state, that this type of work needs to continue.”
Today, Evans serves as the Vt. Department of Public Safety and Agency of Education’s school safety liaison and was appointed to Gov. Phil Scott’s Community Violence Prevention Task Force on August 16. The task force is a group that focuses on reducing violence in both schools and communities around the state.
The force — a group of 19 appointed members with backgrounds in law enforcement, education, licensed gun dealers, health care professionals and more — assesses “high-quality primary research” to identify the underlying causes of violent behavior in communities.
“Our goal must be to find real solutions [to violence] and take steps that will make a difference,” Gov. Scott said in a press release.
Evans’ understanding of violent incidents and school safety come from his experience as a state police officer, director of Vermont’s special operations teams, head of the state’s tactical unit and now as a consultant at Margolis Healy — a firm that specializes in safety and security for primary, secondary and higher educational institutions.
After the last four years working to enhance emergency preparedness in Vermont’s public, private and independent schools, he’s happy to have a seat at the task force’s table and support its conversations.
“We have spent an awful lot of time, resources and money preparing ourselves to respond,” Evans said. “We need to figure out and spend just as much resources on how to prevent these types of things before they happen.”
The task force will work as a team and in subcommittees to analyze, research and present a plan to the governor for tackling the root causes of violence, brainstorming how to make help more widely available to troubled persons and ways to make public spaces like schools safer and more prepared in the event of an emergency.
“We’re taking a look at anything and everything that potentially leads folks to a pattern of violence in our communities,” Evans said. “I don’t think anything is off the table; what we are trying to do is be fact and data-based in our findings and in our recommendations to the governor.”
The committee will meet monthly and submit its preliminary recommendations to Scott by December 31, according to Evans.
Evans noted the complexities in his field. Both people outside and inside schools can pose a threat, he said.
“Kids that are in our school are coming from diverse backgrounds and diverse families, and a lot of kids in our schools are suffering from trauma associated with things that they may be seeing in our homes,” he said. These experiences can affect how students perform in school and can be problematic without support and intervention.
According to Evans, national best practices based off of events like Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Columbine will help improve school safety. Additionally, he developed a series of best practices to accompany the Vt. Department of Public Safety’s school safety and security grant.
Evans hopes to find a way of address the “full landscape” of safety issues in and around schools while maintaining a comfortable learning environment for students. “I’m confident that we can do that,” he said. “But we need to do it in a well thought out way that’s got subject matter experts that are helping folks with those planning processes and implementations of those plans.”
With a seat at the governor’s table, Evans will continue his work to keep the Green Mountain state’s schools and communities safer.