The annual Safe Schools Conference returns to Orange County this month, bringing together hundreds of educators, school workers and law enforcement representatives to address the latest security trends and best practices for maintaining the safest possible learning environments.
Billed as the premier school safety conference in the country, the three-day event will take place Wednesday, July 12 through Friday, July 14 at Delta Hotels Anaheim Garden Grove. Dozens of breakout sessions will cover a range of topics, including bullying prevention, emergency preparedness, disaster response, mental health, threat assessments, drug trends, social media challenges, trauma-informed care, dropout prevention and human trafficking.
Now in its 14th year, the Safe Schools Conference is annually organized and presented by former California Secretary of Education Dave Long through his firm, Dave Long & Associates, in collaboration with the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department
The goal, said Long, is to amplify best practices and to foster collaboration between the education and law enforcement communities. More than 500 are expected to attend this year, including administrators, police officers, school board members, counselors, youth service workers and other community leaders interested in the direct link between school safety, attendance and academic performance.
“Seeing representatives from the education and law enforcement communities gather in this collaborative environment is truly inspiring,” Long said. “Their shared commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students is evident, and the work here highlights the power of collaboration in addressing critical school safety issues. It is through these collective efforts that we can create safer and more supportive environments for our young people to thrive.”
Keynotes and awards
In addition to the workshops, each day will bring participants together for a general session.
On Wednesday, July 12, Dr. Stephen Sroka will deliver a keynote presentation titled “School Safety: It’s all about Relationships!” Sroka will emphasize the importance of trusted relationships, offering practical strategies, heartfelt stories and research-based insights on topics such as leadership, mental health, trauma-informed practices and creating a positive school climate, while highlighting the transformative power of teamwork and resilience.
On July 13, Special Agent Jeffrey R. Cugno from the Federal Bureau of Investigation will provide an overview of threats to educational environments, including targeted school violence, drug abuse, radicalization and human trafficking. Cugno will also discuss strategies and resources available through partnerships with the FBI, focusing on early warning behaviors, protective measures and mitigation efforts.
The final day will feature a panel discussion on the fentanyl crisis. Presenters will cover the risks associated with illicit fentanyl, outline developmentally appropriate prevention strategies and share resources aimed at protecting young people. Panelists will include Undersheriff Jeff Hallock from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Superior Court Judge Maria D. Hernandez, Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Brian Gunsolley, UCI Professor Dr. Elizabeth Cauffman and parent Amy Neville, who is president of the Alexander Neville Foundation.
Each year, the conference also presents two community members with Distinguished Safe Schools Awards. This year’s honorees are Deputy Tyler Gish, a school resource officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and Dr. Stephen Bayne, director of risk management, insurance and safety for the Irvine Unified School District.
Delta Hotels Anaheim Garden Grove is located at 12021 Harbor Blvd. in Garden Grove. For more information on workshops, featured speakers or registration, visit safeschoolsconference.com, or contact OCDE Program Specialist Christine Laehle at 714-327-1067 or CLaehle@ocde.us.