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For a few weeks now we have been processing the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Part of the response has been well deserved praise for first responders and the quick apprehension of the gunman. I want to say a word of praise for the teachers and other educators who put their lives at risk and played a role in saving students and other staff from death or injury.

Our own Helena teachers (and other teachers across the country) have been trained to do the same thing as teachers in Parkland. They have spent the last 20 years practicing lockdowns, intruder drills and evacuations, all the while trying to do their job of educating and caring for our students. And our students have done their part by participating in these same exercises with attention and patience.

If you are someone working in our Helena schools -- a teacher, a para, a custodian, an employee in the kitchen -- thank you. If you are a principal or district administrator who keeps these safety concerns in the forefront -- thank you. If you supported the recent school levy that included improved security for all of our schools in Helena -- thank you.

But, safety and success is more than preparedness and good security. It is working to ensure that students and staff foster a school culture that promotes respect, inclusion and accountability. I am grateful that the Helena Schools do exactly that through the Montana Behavior Initiative and many other integrated programs that work to support all students including students who are struggling, who are at risk, or who have disabilities.

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As members of the Helena community, I hope you will join me in sharing a word of appreciation for all of the people responsible for keeping our kids safe. I believe it will be much appreciated.

Joe Furshong

Helena

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