BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The principal who led Columbine High School through one of the worst tragedies in American history is now working to help make Berkeley County School District students safer.
Frank DeAngelis was principal at Columbine High School for 35 years including on the day two gunmen walked into the school and killed 12 students and a teacher before turning the gun on themselves.
DeAngelis was in Berkeley County Thursday sharing his message with principals in hopes of preventing a similar tragedy.
“If you would’ve asked me 22 years ago could a Columbine happen at columbine, I would’ve said no,” says DeAngelis.
April 20th, 1999 changed the lives of so many including DeAngelis who served as Principal at the school for 18 years from 1996 to 2014 and worked at the school for 35 years altogether. Since retiring in 2014, he travels to high schools around the country sharing the stories of the 13 lives lost.
“And it’s not to scare, it’s to prepare,” says DeAngelis.
Those stories turning into better ways to protect students and prepare schools from mass school shootings. Those methods ranging from new ways of simulating drills to how to better respond at the moment.
“There are so many lessons learned from the tactics that were used by the police to some of the things that we are doing now as far as threat assessment because we need to be there for our kids,” says DeAngelis.
DeAngelis shared his message with Berkeley County Principals covering emotional support, counseling, healing and more leaving the audience with a challenge. That challenge, to make 13 changes in their schools – each representing a life lost in the shooting.
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“Thirteen acts that can change the culture in your community and in your school in memory of those thirteen and that would be the best tribute,” says DeAngelis.
Whether it’s Columbine, Parkland, or Sandy Hook, DeAngelis hopes his message prevents America’s next Columbine shooting.
“I refused to be helpless, I refuse to be hopeless and I refuse to give in and I am going to continue doing this on behalf of the thirteen and all the other kids that were lost,” says DeAngelis. “I refuse, I can’t because if I do then the two killers win.”
The student safety presentation was part of the district’s welcome back orientation for district administration ahead of students’ return to school in August.