Chief Marketing Officer
Publish dateSep 7, 2022
A hint of cooling weather, pre-season games and teacher wish lists posted online are a few of the telltale signs that a new school year is upon us. More subtle signs are the increased anxiety among students, parents, teachers and administrators due to the rise in gun violence. In fact, this past year, the CDC reported that firearms are now the leading cause of death among young people.
Taking a closer look at the school gun violence issue and what can be done to lower the risk, we spoke with Kevin Eberle, EdD. A former police officer that received FBI and Secret Service protection training, Kevin also spent 27 years as a school principal. He earned an EdD in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Buffalo and is highly skilled in lesson planning, educational technology, trauma-informed care and emergency response to critical situations in school environments.
Can you tell us how you went from being a police officer to a school principal?
I began my career as a police officer in Virginia with the goal of becoming an FBI agent. I was later promoted to one of the two Tactical Teams (SWAT) and started training with the Secret Service in Dignitary Protection to support the President of the United States as he flew into our city for summits with heads of state. With the FBI, I went to Sniper School. Over time, every tactical officer was assigned to training new recruits in the Police Academy. This was a turning point in my career as I discovered how much I loved teaching and passing my skills on to the next group of recruits.
After seven years in the police department, I had an opportunity to develop a new criminal justice curriculum for the State of New York and began teaching Criminal Justice to high school juniors and seniors. From there, I eventually became a school principal. Yet throughout my career in education, I kept my police and tactical mindset at the forefront as being responsible for hundreds of teacher and thousands of students requires safety to be the number one priority.
Today, as a retired educator and former police officer, I am now an education and school safety consultant continuing my life’s mission to keep students and teachers safe. In this role, I complement my law enforcement and educational training by focusing on the social and emotional factors that impact the school day, bringing forth a focus on safety, security and mental health.
What do you see are the biggest contributing factors to the increase in violence in schools?
There are several factors contributing to the increase in school violence, and I’ll touch upon five of the most critical ones. The first is the changing structure of today’s society as multiple factors influence students and their exposure to violence. The second is legislative changes on bail reform. For example, a student may commit a crime at night and be released and return to school the next day bringing the previous night’s anxiety and attitudes with them, which can permeate the school. Third is increasing mental health issues as suicide rates and domestic violence continue to rise. Fourth is teacher retention and experience managing behaviors related to mental health. While Trauma Informed Care and Restorative Practice are two major initiatives for teacher professional development, many schools have not yet engaged these practices. Fifth, there is minimal accountability for bad student behavior. Many schools isolate students with poor behavior, suspending them every time they act out instead of assisting them to better manage their actions.
In addition to the use of Evolv, what other initiatives do you recommend schools consider to enhance safety?
So much of school safety is rooted in the way the day starts. You really don’t know how the night before went for a student. They may be carrying over family issues, gang activities or cyberbullying, for example. Adults must be trained to recognize these signs with each student. When you have Evolv Express® in place, it allows adults to engage every student at the door with a positive, proactive greeting to start the day while also sending a clear message that safety and security are the number one priority, and weapons are not allowed. While Evolv Express is a game changer, the human factor must also be embedded into the overall strategy for school safety. This is why in addition to Evolv, schools need to enhance safety with professional development including relationship building, trauma-informed care and collaborative efforts so they can bring restorative practices into focus.
If you could say one thing to a school decision maker who is on the fence about partnering with Evolv, what would it be?
Evolv Express is not the complete answer for keeping schools safe, but it truly develops and creates a safer atmosphere. As educators, we call this our “participatory set,” establishing the tone of every lesson in the classroom. Combining the human factor with Evolv Express reduces anxiety, depression and the fear that many students and teachers have every day about the rise of gun violence in schools.