H. E.R.O. – an acronym for Hide, Escape, Run and Overcome – is a safety curriculum of four protective strategies specifically designed for grades K-8 on how to prevent and survive an active shooter on campus.
KINDERGARTEN TEACHER LISSANDRA OURIQUE SHOWS CARTOON VIDEOS OF H.E.R.O. TRAINING TO HER STUDENTS. PHOTO BY SPENCER GRANT/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Given the rising number of such incidents across the country, these strategies have become a nationwide educational priority.
St. Bonaventure spent the week of September 26 showing the students how the strategies can be applied during a five-day program sponsored by Safe Kids Inc. It is the only school in the area implementing the program.
“The H.E.R.O. program teaches students how to access, evaluate and act in situations where their safety may be in question,” explained St. Bonaventure principal Mary Flock. “Students feel empowered to make decisions, prepare with practical and applicable skills if ever needed and understanding they have some control in unpredictable situations.”
To help kick off H.E.R.O. week, Huntington Beach Chief of Police Eric Parra, addressed students during morning assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
“Why do you think you have homework?” he asked. “It’s not for misery. It’s for practice!”
Chief Parra explained that the program would teach students ways to protect themselves and stay safe during an emergency.
“We can stay safe and watch out for one another by working together and following some simple guidelines,” he said.
SAFE KIDS INC.
Safe Kids Inc. was founded in 2016 by police and educators as active shooter and violent intruder events became more commonplace. Its website states, “We began investigating active shooter incidents in schools and discovered survivability methods weren’t being taught because they didn’t exist. We combined the best practices of safety and education to teach active shooter prevention and response to students. It is the desire of this team that the H.E.R.O. Program will save lives through safe thinking and safe action.”
During each day of the week-long program, students were taught a lesson in safety strategy during a potential active shooter situation.
Do younger students understand the concept of danger?
“Yes, unfortunately I think they do because of what’s going on in society today,” said fifth-grade teacher Michele Wittels. “They hear the news, and their parents talk to them about it.”
Third grade teacher Heather Swienton felt the information was presented in a great way.
“It was age appropriate and even though they conveyed the seriousness of the situation, they did it in a way that was a little less scary because it was a narrative story, and they did it in the form of a comic book.”
The intruder is called an ‘invader’ so the kids can feel like superheroes.
“It was nice because it was open for discussion and it gave them a plan,” Wittels said. “Now they know what to do if something happens.”
Parent and school volunteer Stephanie Gonzalez said she was impressed by the program.
“There’s been a lot of takeaways this week for my fifth grader and kindergartener, both of whom came back with the same message which was how to hide, escape or run from an intruder – which is good to know,” she said.
School Director of Marketing and Enrollment Vanessa Frei added that the program’s value extends beyond St. Bonaventure.
“The skills we’re teaching are lifelong skills that are applicable to circumstances outside of school – at the soccer field, at the mall, at the supermarket, anywhere,” she said. It can build upon the skills they’ve learned here at St. Bonaventure and apply anywhere in real life situations.”
Fifth grader Bridan Edwards got the H.E.R.O. concept.
“It makes me feel like I’ll know what to do if there’s an intruder,” he said. “And it makes me feel a little bit safer now that we’ve been practicing what we must do.”