[Editorial Note: This is part one of a two-part story about active shooters in our schools. Please come back for Part Two in Monday’s Linn County Leader.]
It is a moment we never hope to have to experience: a shooter is actively unleashing a weapon in one of our schools. This tragedy happens more often, and closer to home, than any of us would ever want to admit. As a part of the day-long training provided by Strategos International through the Linn County Superintendent’s Consortium, area parents and community members received active shooter training on Monday night at Tiger Fieldhouse in Marceline.
The training started with 28 bus drivers, then went to over 150 teachers from five or six area schools, and concluded with over 30 parents and community members at the evening training event. As stated previously, this event was sponsored by the Linn County Superintendent’s Consortium, and was spearheaded by Bucklin Superintendent Steve Coulson.
“We can never be too careful with peoples’ children,” said Coulson. “I consider it a part of my job as a superintendent to do everything I can. In order to do that, you have to make sure you train all of your staff. Today’s events, and all of the different aspects, starting with the bus drivers, teachers and staff, and tonight with the parents, seeks to do that in the event of an active shooter. This way everyone is involved.
Mark Warren, Vice-President of Strategos International, was the man doing the training for the entire day at Marceline R-5.
“Our philosophy is that these kinds of incidents are truly community-based,” said Warren. “Our goal is to get everyone involved. We do training for law enforcement, we do training for schools; the one component missing has been the parents. We want to educate them to their role in this. We will talk about reporting: what to report, when to report, who to report to, as well as suicide and suicide prevention.“
The first item that both Coulson and Warren noted is that our schools do have plans in place for the occurrence of a shooter in the school.
“We are providing the safest environment that we possibly can for these kids,” said Coulson. “In the event of a tragedy, we have all had training and can respond in a quick and efficient manner, to provide as safe an environment as possible for students.”
Warren echoed this sentiment: “Obviously you have to have confidence in your school, knowing they have a plan in place and are doing everything they can do to make sure that your children are safe. If you [as a parent] respond to the school during an event of this nature, you are interjecting yourself into a larger problem. You have to know that you can trust your school, and not get involved. If you come to the schools, you could prohibit the ingress/egress of emergency vehicles to the scene.”
Warren noted in his presentation that after Columbine, law enforcement changed the way they responded to active shooters in schools. The tragedy at Newtown, however, changed how schools responded to active shooters.
The shooters, victims and survivors in these tragedies all have something in common; they are all a part of the community that suffers long-term effects of the shootings. A video recapping the Newtown tragedy from national news was played, and Warren recapped the training for the teachers that had occurred that day.
“The teacher and staff training focused on what to do when you cannot lock the doors in the three to five minutes before police response,” said Warren. “The training for the community will focus on prevention. Research on this topic shows that people tip off someone about their plans. The problem is that no one listens. They think they could be doing it as a ‘joke,’ but these threats need to be taken seriously.”
If a Threat Occurs at School
If an active shooter event takes place at a local school, parents can rest assured that the staff members who attended the Strategos International training were taught a number of techniques to help them save lives.
First and foremost, the school will attempt to go on lockdown. But in the event of an inability to lock down, as in the case with Newtown, Strategos taught the teachers a three-step system for this circumstance.
First, a teacher will attempt to ‘lock out,’ preventing access to them and those around them. The second step is to get out, knowing your exits, where to go, and getting out of sight and reevaluating the situation. The final option is a ‘take- out,’ where the teacher will attempt to fight the threat, using improvised weapons.
Our Linn County schools have safety plans in action. After Newtown, our schools began the process of having locked doors, making visitors sign in, and assigning visitors passes. The communication process between parents and the school have improved.
Remember when you are being buzzed into the school, make sure you don’t allow anyone to “piggy back” your entry. If someone tries to follow you in, ask them to follow you to the office to sign in. If they refuse, alert staff to an unidentified visitor in the school.
Also, please remember that parents cannot enter the school bus. This is a Class A misdemeanor for trespassing, and schools will not hesitate to prosecute.
If a situation occurs, do not respond to the school. You could put yourself in harm and pull police resources away from the school where they are needed. Our local schools will alert you to the situation, and where you can meet to rendezvous with your child or children.
Due to the low attendance at this training, we at the LCL hope that this series of features helps to inform the public at large of these issues. To borrow from a popular Vietnam-era slogan: “They gave a way to avoid a tragedy, and no one came.”