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Medford schools leader reacts to TX school shooting

Bret Champion held a news conference Tuesday to talk about resources Medford schools have to deal with the possibility of similar incidents

In a press conference called abruptly late in the day Tuesday, Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion teared up and became emotional talking about the tragedy that unfolded at a Texas elementary school, where multiple students and adults were gunned down.

According to the Associated Press, an 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two adults as he went from classroom to classroom.

Champion, who was a superintendent at two school districts in Texas before joining Medford in 2019, spoke of his family’s ties to the Uvalde area.

“My ties to that area is nothing — nothing,” Champion said. “It is the loss of those children’s lives that are the reason that we just wanted to look at our families and students and say, ‘we’re here and we care and we will continue to be as humanly vigilant as humanly possible to take care of your most precious resources.’ That’s why we do this work.”

Champion led the conference, and other school officials talked about resources the district has to prevent and work through a school shooting — as well as provide social and emotional support in its aftermath. This includes a statewide resource, the Safe Oregon Tipline, 844-472-3367.

“We can talk about lots of moving parts and devices and cameras and all of those things. At the end of the day, it comes down to human beings taking care of each other, being watchful and vigilant,” Champion said. “Saying something if we see something.”

When the news of the Texas shooting broke, Champion said, there was no “communications effort” on the part of the district to inform its constituents of what had happened.

But on Wednesday, schools will have resources for educators to be able to “take care of the students and their charge,” he said. Champion said those resources will vary by grade level.

“At the elementary level, you don’t want to bring trauma into the classroom, and yet you want to be able to engage that sometimes there are some scary things that happen and here are some ways that we work to keep everyone safe,” Champion said.

“I think that’s true at the secondary level, as well .... and it’s important to know, we have trained mental health counselors at all of our levels ... so if there is a child who is particularly traumatized or really struggling, we make those connections in that one-on-one setting.”

Champion pointed to things that already happen in his schools, such as classroom drills, to prepare for a school shooting. That is in addition to school resource officers whose job it is, among other things, to be the first line of defense should such a tragedy, occur here.

Mike Jackson, a Medford SRO who attended the Tuesday news briefing, was asked by a news reporter if his “world had changed” as a result of the Texas elementary school massacre, and his answer was multifaceted.

“I come to work everyday considering the possibility that this might be the day that it might happen at my schools or one of the schools, and we might be forced to take some sort of mitigating action — so it’s impossible to not be affected by this,” Jackson said. “But to say that ‘my world changed today,’ it did not change drastically, unfortunately. I want to qualify that by saying we are obsessed with studying these incidents.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.