Former Columbine Principal Speaks in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- It’s been almost 20 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Since then a lot has changed when it comes to school safety and preparedness. The principal during the time of the shooting was in Sioux Falls on Sept. 13th talking to local first responders.

Active shooter preparedness has become a common focus for schools across the country. However, when Frank DeAngelis was a principal in 1999 that wasn’t the case.

“You know the only drills we did at Columbine, even when I was in elementary school to when I became teacher and principal at Columbine was we did fire drills,” said DeAngelis.

Until a mass shooting occurred at his school, it’s something many schools didn’t think about. Since his school wasn’t prepared, he says a lot of time was wasted. He says even though schools have come along way with their emergency plans DeAngelis wants to remind them to keep focusing on safety.  

“We are doing things differently, more effectively, but we’ve got to continue to assess what we’re doing because unfortunately the perpetrators and killers are trying to out think the police and come up with plans to kind of combat against some of safety the plans that we have in place,” said DeAngelis.

Those in emergency management say that’s exactly what they’re striving to do. They’ve seen the safety protocol evolve over the years since Columbine.

“The schools go from what we would originally term as soft target, very open lots of doors, lots of accesses in and out of the schools to harding the targets, making it harder for people to get in there, one access point,” said Doug Blomker, Assistant Director of Minnehaha County Emergency Management.

There are also more protocols and drills practiced.

“So that everybody knows what to do when and if this event would ever happen,” said Blomker.

That way they wouldn’t be planning during the shooting like Deangelis had to.

“He had to draw a diagram of the school and they wanted all this information of ventilation and different areas of the school they’d need to be concerned about and of course that’s time consuming to do that kind of thing. And having this type of information ahead of time, it’s time saving and can save lives,” said Blomker.

Deangelis says one important safety measure schools have implemented that’s been a big help is locking classrooms. This makes it hard for an attacker to get to anyone.


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