Goshen CSD, Orange County TRU, state police host active shooter training and simulation

A man in a police uniform speaks to a crowd of adults in an auditorium.

To provide faculty and staff with updated safety protocol and procedures before the start of a new year, the Goshen Central School District hosted a mandatory active shooter training followed by a voluntary active shooter live simulation at the high school Tuesday.

Lieutenant Kevin Phillips, commander of the Orange County Tactical Response Unit (TRU), and New York State Trooper Anca Watt, School and Community Outreach Coordinator (SCOC), shared their expertise on behalf of local and state police in the form of presentations and a simulation. 

“It was eye opening,” said Casey Nardone, a C.J. Hooker Middle School speech pathologist who has been with the district for five years. “We learned a lot of effective options for how to handle these situations.”

The information included updates to protocol, insights from their years of experience, and a reiteration of procedures to help faculty and staff be prepared in case an active intruder with any weapon came into contact with the school. 

“We like to use prevention,” Phillips said. “Prevention is the best medicine.”

Phillips has 28 years in the police force and explained to teachers and staff the history of gun violence in the country. As the TRU commander, he is in charge of Orange County’s version of a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team. He also shared the ways police have changed their approaches to tackling violent crisis situations in schools over the years, citing that it is important for officers and the public to stay updated on best practices. 

“It’s disturbing to anyone, but this is a good exercise,” said Barbara Thompson, a school bus monitor who has been with the district since 2020. 

“It’s good to keep your awareness,” she said. “This is something that motivates you.”

However, Watt said that awareness is different for faculty and staff in a school setting than it would be for police officers on duty.

“You don’t need to be paranoid or hypervigilant,” Watt said, “but we need to introduce safety knowledge.”

Watt described the New York State Emergency Response S.H.E.L.L –meaning Shelter-in-place, Hold-in-place, Evacuate, Lockout, and Lockdown– to ensure all staff understood the difference between each step in the procedures. She also explained where each response would be required and what it takes to lift a lockdown. 

“Even if someone identifies themselves, do not open the door,” she said. “Even if you recognize the voice, even if it’s the police.

“It’s not your responsibility to make sure we can get in,” said Watt. “That’s not it. We can get in. You are responsible for your safety and the safety of your students.”

Men in police uniforms hold guns in a classroom.

This training for faculty and staff is part of numerous safety initiatives, including the updated updated District-Wide School Safety Plan and new partnership with Atlas Security Services Inc. of Goshen as of this past spring. 

“Our relationship with our community partners is key to ensuring the overall safety of the students and families that we serve each day,” said Dr. Kurtis Kotes, superintendent of schools.

“Working together with all law enforcement agencies allows for the District to not only add to our multi-tiered plan for physical safety, but to learn about best practices on how we can react in the event of a true emergency.

“A critical incident is something that none of us ever want to occur, but we must always plan for, constantly drilling and updating our plans,” he said. “We are extremely grateful to the Village of Goshen Police Department and the Orange County Tactical Response Unit for the resources that they committed to our District to provide this training. The day helped all of us to learn about what we can do better as we begin a new school year.”