School Safety??? Budgets, children and protecting ourselves

Yesterdays news of a gunman on the Virginia Tech Campus got me thinking about school safety.

When I was in college, I had the rare opportunity to help out a friend and learn the dark side to school shootings.  At the time I wasn’t even considering a career in education so the idea of helping a friends day during some off time with some police training sounded fun.  Little did I learn that in that one day I would learn more about how to protect myself then I have learned in a life time.

My friend’s dad was a sniper who worked with police departments from around the country.  Columbine was still very fresh in all of our minds and police departments were rethinking how they would enter a hostile situation in the schools.

See what most don’t know that Eric Harris and Dylan Kelbold moved through the school on their killing spree quickly starting and ending their murderous rage in such a short period of time.  I mean watching it felt like forever but during our training we were told it the vast majority of the devastation was done in a matter of minutes.

Minutes. I will never get that out of my head.  What would I do to save myself in students if I only had minutes.  And now in the wake of many school having to make the difficult choice of cutting school safety officers like North Rockland Schools in New York I would share some of the suggestions I learned years ago.

  • Most schools have a signal for the teachers for an unwanted person in the building.  I make sure I ask every year what ours is to make sure it hasn’t changed.
  • During our training we were encouraged to be as observant as possible.  The more information we can give law enforcement the better.
  • Remember, police officers coming into a school don;t know who the shooter is – everyone is a suspect so don’t be alarmed if they yell and scream.  They are just doing their job.
  • Most law enforcement agencies work under the policy of KISS – “Keep it simple stupid.”  Their goal is to go it and get the target.  After Columbine they realized that they were spending to much time trying to secure the scene and not enough time removing the threat.
  • The most dangerous places in a school are the cafeteria and the gym, especially the gym. There is no where for you to hide in the gym.  At least there are tables in the cafeteria to hide under.
  • In regards to hiding.  Often times we tell our students hide under a desk or a table or a closet.  That is most school’s policies in a lock down.  I unfortunately will break that policy if the time every arises.  Hiding makes us targets.  It is very easy to shoot someone just sitting there.  It is far more difficult to shoot a moving target.
  • If you are moving with someone shooting in a building, it is best to run in a zig zag pattern.  The most unpredictable your movements, the better chance you have of being more difficult to aim for.

Obviously the goal is to get out of the situation.  That is best, the less time around the threat the better.  But that is easier said then done.  It is sad that we have this worry about to along with teaching but school shootings are a really threat and we as teachers need to be prepared for an angry parent or student. And with districts around the country having to face the difficult choice of losing safety officers in schools because of budget cuts the danger we face in the classroom is becoming even more of a threat.   I tell my students all the time, if they hear something, say something. As a teacher I do the same.

I look for the kids who are struggling socially.  The tend to be the ones who are most angry, who most have a grudge to deal with and then refer them to SBST (School Based Support Team).  I also tend to keep an eye on my own internal warning system.  If a student gives me that “vibe” I look to my colleagues for help.  I also never underestimate a kids threat.  He says he is bringing a gun to school – I assume he or she  is serious and not joking around.There is no glory in protecting someone who might turn around and kill you.  The last thing we need is another Columbine…



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