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20 years after Columbine, B.C. a leader in handling violent threats at schools

Last Updated Apr 20, 2019 at 11:52 am PST

FILE - In this April, 20, 1999, file photo, a woman embraces her daughter after they were reunited following a shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. The shooting shocked the country as it played out on TV news shows from coast to coast. Images from the scene showed terrified students fleeing the school, SWAT officers waiting to enter and an injured boy trying to escape through a window. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting

A company that trains schools in detecting and handling violent threats says B.C. is leading the way

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s now been twenty years since two senior students marched into their Colorado high school and opened fire, killing twelve classmates and one teacher before committing suicide.

An admirer of the tragedy was suspected of planning a “copycat” attack in Colorado just this week; schools were closed and the public was warned about the 18-year-old that was apparently infatuated with the killings.

RELATED: Teen boys unleashed terror, chaos at Columbine

Today, students and teachers in many classrooms across North America practice what to do in the event of a lockdown.

But how much safer are B.C. classrooms today than they were 20 years ago?

Glen Hansman, President of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, has watched schools across the province change their safety strategies to keep students safe from the threat of a shooting.

Hansman says the shock from cases like Columbine and other school shootings have prompted educators across North America to think about what they can do to prevent something like that from happening in their schools.

RELATED: Colorado schools reopen as FBI examines teen suspect’s past

He says B.C.’s education system has been leading the way in trying to make those changes happen.

“Each and every school district in British Columbia is required to have training, a point person, and a variety of things in place that have allowed schools to be more proactive,” Hansman says. “There is even a layer of digital response that checks out the possibility of very critical incidents, not necessarily involving guns, and stops them from happening before it begins.”

WATCH: Students stage walkout on Columbine’s 19th anniversary

British Columbia started the province-wide “Erase” program eight years ago, which uses threat prevention tactics like an anonymous hotline and mental health support for students.

Theresa Campbell with Safer Schools Together says they have grown the program since then, including training school employees and police how to identify digital and behavioral red flags.

Some of the tools the program uses have been recommended and envied by Americans, she says, even though B.C. has been the only province to test them.

“Homeland security and U.S. Secret Services released a report in July based on the tragedies in Parkland, Kentucky, and, Texas the year previous,” she says. “In that report, every one of their recommendations was a part of our Erase training.”

RELATED: ‘We don’t get over it’: Pain of mass shootings stretches on

Twenty years down the line, not every school in North America has changed the way they handle violent threats, despite shootings becoming deadlier and getting viral attention.

Campbell says B.C. wouldn’t be a leader in this kind of training without support from local government.

“I think the Ministry of Education is to be commended,” she says. “My colleagues here in the U.S. constantly look at what we’ve done in B.C. and say “How did British Columbia ever get there?” — and that truly has been through the leadership of the Ministry”

Although experts say B.C. has been a trail-blazer in school safety, it will be up to other provinces and countries to follow suit.