Active shooting incidents are every parent and educator’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that they couldn’t happen in any community in the United States. According to the Sandy Hook Promise organization, a leading member of the fight against school shootings, “The U.S. has had 2,032 school shootings since 1970 and these numbers are increasing. Alarmingly, 948 school shootings have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.”
While our nation hasn’t found a way to put an end to the root cause of school shootings, we’re not completely helpless. What we can do is secure our campuses and classrooms as best we’re able.
What Takes Place During a Shooting Incident
Active shooting incidents are a terrifying event for everyone in their wake. Even if a student is not physically impacted by gun violence, the mental and emotional repercussions can be staggering. The Sandy Hook Promise organization reports that “since the historic attack at Columbine High School in 1999, nearly 300,000 students have been on campus during a school shooting.” That’s a lot of children left to deal with the aftermath and trauma of knowing (or seeing) that there is an active shooter in their school.
During a shooting incident, things can be incredibly unpredictable—after all, the cause of the event is an irrational actor. Some statistics are helpful, however. According to a report released by the FBI analyzing 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013:
- All but 2 incidents involved a single shooter
- Around one third of school shootings (as opposed to commercial, residential, governmental, or other open space shootings) occurred on a Monday
- 17 out of 20 shooters that targeted high school and middle schools were also students at the school (12 of 14 high schoolers and 5 of 6 middle schoolers/ junior high students)
- On average, active shooter incidents last just 12 minutes. 37 percent of active shooter incidents are extremely short, at under 5 minutes
What do Educators Do in an Active Shooting Event?
While the information on school shootings is certainly saddening, we can garner some important takeaways from the statistics above.
Knowing that the average active shooter incident is short or extremely short reminds us that we simply don’t have proper time to react in many instances. For that reason, we should be prepared to defend our campuses, educators, students, and staff before a shooting event takes place.
We also know that while most shooters in elementary and lower school settings are intruders, the majority of middle and high school active shooters are students at the school itself. Based on this statistic, it’s clear that institutions must protect their classrooms from an attack in which the shooter has easily entered the building. A secure parameter isn’t enough; classrooms must be fortified, as well. We should also develop strategic plans beyond the scope of evacuation.
How Must Students and Teachers Prepare For a Lockdown Event?
When it comes to preparing for a lockdown event, students and teachers need at least a three pronged approach: 1) training, 2) practice, and 3) improving classroom security.
When considering which training option to select, many institutions find ALICE training to be a great fit for their needs. ALICE training is one of the most popular school shooting training programs in the nation. The ALICE method teaches that there are three main strategies for action during an active shooter event:
- Evacuate: Evacuation is always the preferred method if there is an available (and safe) way to escape. Planning an escape route in advance is a great way for schools to get started when it comes to developing an active shooting drill.
- Shelter in Place: School administrators and resource officers should proactively designate a plan for sheltering and hiding inside the school building if evacuation is not possible or safe. Shelter plans should include methods for safely locking the classroom door, covering windows, and remaining in place for as long as necessary.
- Distract the Assailant: Creating 1) distance between the shooter and their target and 2) a distraction for the shooter are two key ways to counter an attack, if necessary. Both distance and distraction decrease the assailant’s ability to accurately aim and fire.
For more information on the ALICE training method and how to implement it at your institution, head over to School Safety Solutions complete guide to ALICE training for schools.
The conversation surrounding active shooter drills can be an incredibly emotional, and sometimes divisive, discussion. But, as Jaclyn Schildkraut, a criminal justice professor who studies school drills and mass shootings at the State University of New York at Oswego reported to EdWeek, “I would love to live in a world where we did not need these [drills], but that’s not the world we live in.” The key, Schildkraut emphasized, is to deliver the skills to students in a way that is trauma-informed.
Delivery of skills will necessarily differ based on grade level. Elementary school students, for example, should be protected from active shooter drills in which fear levels are heightened and the sense of safety at school is diminished. High school students, on the other hand, are more able to process the seriousness of preparing for a potential threat and remaining calm. According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), it’s important to “use developmentally appropriate language to describe the drill and the actions for students to take during the drills.”
Tips for thoughtful practice drill methods include:
- Encouraging anxious or nervous students to stick with their “drill buddy”
- Praise students for following directions or completing a drill effectively
- Make sure that students (and their parents) understand that these practices are simply drills, but that they are necessary to keep students safe
- Provide mental health and coping resources for students who feel scared during or after the drill
3. Improving School Door Security
While preparation is crucial, so is the physical act of improving your classroom door security. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has reported that the single best tangible protection from school shootings are doors that lock from the inside. The Commission’s 2015 report disclosed that “there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door.”
School Safety Solution is on the cutting edge of developing the most advanced methods of classroom security that also maintain a great environment for students and staff. That’s why we’ve developed the TEACHERLOCK™ and TEACHERLOCK II™ to transform any classroom door into one that locks from the inside. With TeacherLock, teachers do not have to exit the classroom at all during an emergency situation, keeping them (and their students) safe behind closed doors.
The TEACHERLOCK and TEACHERLOOCK II are both discrete devices that won’t cause a disruption to the learning environment. These durable locking mechanisms are incredibly effective and also totally bulletproof, able to deploy within seconds when every minute counts.
Fortifying Your Classrooms with the Help of School Safety Solution:
At School Safety Solution, our priority is making sure that school campuses across the country are as safe as they can be. Our solutions protect children and educators safe by providing reliable, high-quality, and life-saving equipment that protect children, teachers, and staff.
If you would like to review your school’s safety and security equipment, the tools available to your school’s staff, or any other security consideration, we would love to assist you. You can call our team of safety experts any time at 888.733.0406 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.