ASR Part 4: Santana High School

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Up to this point in the series, all of the active shooter situations we have analyzed have been at commercial businesses. Between 2000 and 2017, Santana High School was the first school target. Schools have a unique set of circumstances. They hold hundreds of children aged 4-18 every day, who have no sense of direction and must have their hands held. Throw the chaos of a gunshot into that, and there is a recipe for disaster. Now in the past, I have beaten the Run, Hide, Fight horse to within inches of death. While it is always a good reminder, this blog will follow a different course- classroom management.

This blog is targeting teachers and administrators. I want you to imagine for a second your pristine and well-behaved class of second-graders or tenth-graders. The day has gone smoothly, for once (let’s be real). You are right in the middle of a lesson, when you hear a gunshot. Your teacher brain goes into survival mode. You recognize the danger and you know you need to run. But wait, you have 25 kiddos in your care who have no idea what is going on. All they know is the situation could be dangerous, and they look to YOU for guidance. In a class that has perfect classroom management, this would be chaotic, so imagine this in a class with less than perfect or no classroom management. The situation has not changed. There is still a danger, and YOU are still holding the lives of 25 children in your hands. What do you do?

I paint this picture to scare you- but just enough to realize the gravity of the situation. So many administrators have dismissed active shooters with “the number of school active shootings has decreased.” I agree, they have decreased, but they haven’t gone away. While the chance that your school will be “chosen” is slim, what if it is? Are you as a teacher prepared? Are you as the guardian of 25 other lives prepared?

School shootings have statistically decreased. That much is true, and that much is great news. But our work cannot and should not stop there. Our goal is that they go away completely. Our goal is that teachers, administrators, and students take this threat seriously and realize that they have a HUGE responsibility on their shoulders. Lives are literally hanging in the balance in these situations, and it has become much more than a ritual safety suggestion for you to know how to respond. And to any teachers out there, it almost goes without saying that a well-managed classroom has a much better chance of survival than a classroom that erupts into chaos the moment you step out the door.

Why, you might ask? Let’s step back into the scenario I painted earlier. You hear the gunshots in the hallway. In a well-managed classroom, there is a plan. Everyone knows what to do. Lock the door, cover the windows, barricade the door, turn off the lights, and either get out of the building through a window, or find a way to hide. Everyone should stay quiet. This does not mean that there will be perfect sanity in this situation, but it does mean that you have taken the time to train your students… I repeat YOUR students, and the very fact that they know what to do means they can act with some semblance of sanity. That same situation in a chaotic classroom that is untrained will not go so smoothly.

Teachers, your first problem is not the shooter. Your first problem starts now. You need to be trained. You have a responsibility as an educator and as the teacher to learn and grow and develop. Your students will be looking to YOU for what to do. Do you know? You need to train your students. Their lives could depend on it. Your classroom should have a specific plan in place in the event of an active shooter catered to your specific classroom and based on the whereabouts of the shooter.

And teachers, before you use the excuse that you don’t want to scare your students, remember that every year since kindergarten, they have been taught how to respond if they are engulfed in flames. Stop. Drop. Roll. And when is the last time you heard about a child catching fire. Our children do not walk around in fear of being engulfed in flames, but they are prepared for the almost nonexistent chance that they could be. On the flipside, active shooter situations in school happen every single year. It is so much more a threat than your student catching fire. The point of training your students as not to scare them. It is so they can be prepared in the much more likely event that an active shooter arrives on the doorstep of your school.

While we’re at it, before you use the excuse that you don’t have time for that, especially secondary teachers, realize that such training only takes about five minutes a week. Every week at the same time, go over your active shooter response plan with your students. You will feel empowered, and your students will be capable of contributing to the solution instead of the problem.

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