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'It's Maddening': 23 Years After Helping Navigate Columbine, Bloomington's Rick Kaufman Set To Help Uvalde

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) – Bloomington Public Schools Emergency Management and Communications Director Rick Kaufman knows the pain of experiencing a school shooting firsthand. In 1999, he was less than a year into a career with Jeffco (Colorado) schools when two students shot and killed more than a dozen classmates and staff members.

More than two decades later, Kaufman is still working to make good on a promise he made that day. Since 2000, he has worked to consult with school districts across the nation on how to both prevent and respond to situations of violence.

"I made a promise to the victim's families and the survivors that I would commit my life to doing what I could to protect and make school safer and more secure so others wouldn't have to experience (what they did)," Kaufman said Wednesday. "It never entered my mind that it would be replicated in the size and scope and magnitude of that tragedy."

On Tuesday, Kaufman says he was alerted 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas had been killed.

"It's hard to describe the visceral feeling I have and the sense of, here we go again," he said.

Shortly after, he was leaving a message for the district's communications director – a message he'd left to schools in Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas, among other places.

"I reached out last night and said 'When you can breathe, let's touch base,'" he said. "''I know what you're going through.'"

"I'm angry today," said Kaufman during a sit down interview in a Oak Grove Middle School classroom. "I'm absolutely angry because I've had 24 hours to think about it and no sleep. I'm angry that we're here 23 years later."

Kaufman says much has been done to increase school security since the Columbine shooting. In fact, he says schools have never been safer than they are in terms of security. Still, he says no amount of security can prevent a mass shooting.

"There are no guarantees. Anyone that tells you that you can stop a school shooting is not being honest," he said. "There's not a system, there's not a product, there's not a program. All the training in the world will not stop someone that is hell bent on creating havoc, mayhem and death."

Ultimately, he says making a change will require lawmakers uniting.

"I have a tremendous amount of faith and belief that yes, we can solve it if we're willing to do the hard work, to bring opposing viewpoints and insights together. No child's life should be taken for granted and it should never be relegated to less than finding a solution," he said.

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