Today we practiced what to do if an active shooter entered the building. Yes, you read that right...active shooter entering the building. I am not sure how I feel about this. In this post-Columbine world it seems that schools unfortunately need to be prepared for the most dangerous, life threatening situations. Like fire drills, active shooter drills can be life saving, however I am very saddened by the fact that we need to practice active shooter drills in schools.
We have practiced "lock-down" drills in school before. These drills had us locking the classroom doors, turning the lights out and and silently crouching in the corner with the students silently in the corner away from the doors and windows. This may have lasted about 5 minutes or so, then it would be back to business as usual. The philosophy of the "lock-down" drill has changed. With students sitting in the corner, they are sitting ducks if an armed assailant manages to enter the classroom. The new thinking is that with enough information teachers can make a decision to barricade the door and/or evacuate the classroom if possible. If either of those choices is not possible, and an armed shooter enters the classroom, teachers should be thinking how to confront and confuse the attacker. Like throw a book or a desk at him/her, scream, become moving targets, etc.
The two elementary school teachers joined our staff for this active shooter drill today. There were all kinds of first responders and two volunteers to be the shooters. They by the way carried fake plastic guns for the simulation. I was fortunate ( or unfortunate- all depends on how you look at it) enough to be chosen as one of the "teachers" in this drill. Several "students" from all three schools were in my room as well as other rooms throughout the building.
First, we practiced the traditional "lock-down" drill and hid in the corner. During this simulation, we could hear the active shooter in the classroom above us as we all cowered in the corner. He was yelling and screaming what I thought was "Dead. Dead.Dead" as he pretended to shoot the occupants of the class. It may have been "Bang. Bang.Bang.", but that is not important. I was thinking Sh*!, if the shooter comes down the stairs, they could easily break down the door and we would be dead.
The second and third time we practiced the "lock-down" drills again. This time using the new thinking. Over the loudspeaker we heard information about where the shooter was and what they were wearing. We had the choice to barricade, evacuate or stay put. Every class made different decisions based on the whereabouts of the shooter. Both times I managed to get my class out of the building safely because the shooters where not anywhere near my classroom. They key was having information about what was going on in the building and making split second decisions. In practice this worked great , but I was wondering if it were a real emergency would I really have heard all of the information over the PA? I hope I never have to find out.
After the third simulation was completed, we gathered in the auditorium to debrief. It was an eye opening experience. At some point in the school year we will be practicing the same drill with the students. It horrifies me that we have to have active shooter drills in school. I long for the days in school when a child's biggest worry was forgetting their homework or taking a test.