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Bastrop ISD hosts reunification training with staff, law enforcement, emergency responders

The goal of the "I Love U Guys" foundation reunification training is to teach participants a standardized process to reunite kids with parents after a crisis.

BASTROP, Texas — Right now, educators across Central Texas are preparing for the new school year. And in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, everyone’s minds are on school safety.

In addition to active shooter and crisis response trainings over the summer, Bastrop ISD hosted a reunification training on Wednesday.

More than 100 school staff members, law enforcement officers and emergency responders took part in the training to learn a standardized process on how to reunite parents and kids after a crisis situation.

“Especially after recent events, it's on everybody's minds. It's on the kids' minds, it's on the parents’ minds, it's on my teachers' minds,” shared Krystal Gabriel, the principal of Bastrop High School.

Gabriel was one of many people who took part in the training hosted by the “I Love U Guys” foundation. According to its website, the foundation’s “programs for crisis response and post-crisis reunification are used in more than 30,000 schools, districts, departments, agencies, organizations and communities around the world.”

Joe LaBrutto, who was in law enforcement for nearly 20 years and is now an instructor with the “I Love U Guys” foundation, was helping run the Bastrop ISD training. He said the goal is to make sure the district has a standardized process to reunite kids and parents if a crisis were to happen.

It is hugely important to have a plan put together ahead of time and tested, so that on the day of the incident, when the possibly worst thing can happen, you're not making it up on the spot,” he said.

On Tuesday, the first day of the two-day training, the participants did a lot of learning. On Wednesday, they put the learning into practice, simulating a reunification process. They had roles of parents, observers, children and those on the reunification team. This is a new training for Bastrop ISD. 

"We haven't ever done a reunification method training, and that's part of the problem," said Scot Bunch, the Bastrop ISD police chief. "We read about it, we look at it, but unless you train, you can't really understand all the dynamics at play."

Chief Bunch said on the law enforcement side, his department has been preparing this summer with active-shooter trainings and added more officers.

We have 17 now,” said Bunch. ”We ended last year with 12 – we've added five over the summer.”

But he said the reunification side is extremely important.

“We really, as a district, have to look at this reunification method because it's the nuts and bolts of how we actually try to recover as a community,” said Bunch.

Participants at the training will go back and share this training with their campuses, so that if something ever were to happen, they would have the tools to best navigate a crisis.

“We hope and pray that we never have to use this,” said Principal Gabriel. “But knowing that we're prepared and that we have these resources, it really does, it puts us much more at ease.”

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