A LYS Superintendent shares the following:
I had been contemplating writing about the “school to prison” pipeline. Although not unique, I have a collection of experiences that are not common in the field of education. I have served in the military, I was a law enforcement officer, and I am now a school superintendent. Given the recent tragedy and Governor Perry’s wise call for schools to review their emergency plans, I decided to delay the “school to prison” pipeline piece and to give my perspectives on school intruder situations.
In law enforcement, these school shootings are generally referred to as “active shooters.” The actor is not taking hostages; the actor is intent on murder and is actively carrying out that intent. Law enforcement protocol will be to engage and stop the active shooter. If that is one officer on the scene or fifty, law enforcement will engage and stop an active shooter. I won’t go into the details of law enforcement active shooter methods and tactics for obvious reasons.
In this nightmare situation school’s usual response is to go into “lock down” mode. Teachers will lock students into rooms and try to remain out of sight. Going into lock down is a way to be as safe as possible until the cavalry arrives. To say it another way, going into lock down is a way to minimize casualties until law enforcement arrives and stops the active shooter. Notice I used the
word minimize and not stop. Once a person is in your school and actively shooting, you are almost certainly going to take casualties until someone stops the shooter. I see absolutely no way around that fact.
So in the end it comes down to time. Time is equated to lives lost or saved. If you are fortunate enough to have a law enforcement officer on campus, your response time for help will likely be low and the casualties suffered will likely be minimal. If you are relying on off-campus help, your response time will likely be longer, certainly several minutes. Going into lock down can slow the rate of taking casualties, but the casualties are not likely to stop until the active shooter is engaged. When law enforcement arrives, are they going to be familiar enough with the specific building layouts to make it to the right spot? If a shooter is in the band hall, do the responding officers know where the band hall is, or will they have to figure that out once they arrive? That will cost you more time, and casualties.
I would encourage each of us to think of how to minimize the rate of casualties and how to decrease response time at each of our campuses. Every campus is unique. If you are a large district with a police department you have options. But how many school districts with their own police departments put an officer at each elementary campus? If you are in a rural area with law enforcement perhaps 10 minutes away, you may want to think outside the box. Many lives can be lost in 10 minutes of active shooting. I learned this week that some districts authorize certain school personnel to carry weapons on campus. In light of using all available resources, I could make the argument that this is a prudent decision. If you have a principal who has a background in law enforcement, why wait for a 10-minute response when you can have a response in a minute? Do you have a coach on campus who was in the military? In the days of diminishing resources and increasing needs, it may be prudent for each district to exam some of these out of the box options. I know as a veteran of the military and law enforcement it would sicken me to wait minutes for help, help that I have been well trained to provide, knowing that every tick of the clock is a potential life lost.
SC Response I’m not an advocate for putting more arms on our campuses. There are just too many “if’s” involved. As a gun owner, I am well aware that the simple fact that having a gun in my house increases the risk of injury in my house. The clinical logic of your post is compelling (a result of your training and expertise), but as you point out you are unique in our field. In the review of our emergency and response plans I agree that we should explore every prudent action to secure our campuses. However, I would postpone any decision to arm staff members until our collective raw emotions, anger and fear have been checked.
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