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School police chief attends summit
Rod Ellis takes his role as chief of Glynn County School System's resource officers very seriously, researching and networking with law enforcement agencies around the world in an effort to bolster his department's ability to protect children.

Sometimes that role involves looking directly into the eyes of those who have seen tragedy up close and learning from their story.

An opportunity to speak face-to-face with two men who have dealt with incidents involving mass shootings arose for Ellis while serving as a K-12 schools panel representative at a national summit to prevent multi-casualty violence. The summit was held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick.

"Along with my wife Katherine, I had the honor of having dinner with Chief Michael Kehoe of the Newtown, Conn., Police and Maj. Gene Deisinger of the Virginia Tech Police," he said.

At Newtown, 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. In April 2007, 32 people were killed by a gunman on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. In both cases, the gunman shot and killed himself at the end of the shooting spree.

"I listened intently to these men and felt for them as they described the horrific events of the days of Sandy Hook Elementary and Virginia Tech," Ellis said. "I don't want our community to ever face this tragedy."

For the last year and a half, Ellis has participated in the panel discussions, which met for the third time earlier this month.

He'd already had the opportunity to work with Deisinger in a panel discussion during a meeting in December 2012. The panel ended just one day before the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook tragedy. "The wheels weren't even down on some of the planes taking people home from the panel," Ellis said.

Having a chance to meet with Deisinger and Kehoe this year gave Ellis a chance to learn from their experiences, ask questions and bring more information to how he and his staff patrol Glynn County schools.

"They thought, 'It could never happen here.' They'd taken precautions," Ellis said. "(In Sandy Hook) they even underwent recent safety improvements. They were honestly way ahead of the game."

For that reason, Ellis is resolved to continue to train and equip his officers with as much as he can, as well as engage the students they protect daily so they understand the officers care.

Ellis said they also underwent a recent heightening of threat assessments in area schools, making sure troubled students are getting both the help and follow-up they need.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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