Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is it time yet?

After another school shooting, are we finally ready to face reality?

As parents, as teachers, as administrators, and as a country, can we finally accept that these incidents will continue to happen, and prepare for them?

Is it time yet to start training our children how to survive a school shooting?

The Virginia Tech killings are absolutely tragic. While we frantically scramble for someone to blame, this time there doesn't seem to be a convenient target for our scorn. The teachers reported his disturbing behavior, the police were contacted, mental health professionals got involved, and even the courts ruled that he was a danger to himself and others.

But when an individual chooses to ignore help, and when that individual has not committed criminal actions, the freedoms of this country to do not permit authorities to lock him up, just in case he goes crazy someday.

What's striking to me, is how unprepared we continue to be for these events. How quickly the situation degenerates into panic and chaos. There are heroes, and those who play the deer-in-the-headlights role, but there is never a cohesive plan of action.

That has to change, and it has to change fast. We need to train teachers, administrators, and students how to increase their odds of survival, and we need to do it before more people die needlessly. Here's what the training should include:

1) Escape routes. Each classroom should have multiple escape routes mapped out, and just like fire drills, students can practice moving quickly toward these exits. They need to know that at the first sound of gunfire, option #1 is to get the fuck out of Dodge.

2) Locks/barricades. Classroom doors need locks, and training should include procedures for locking and barricading doors. If option #1 fails, then this is the best chance. Isolate the fucker in the hallway, and let him waste bullets firing at the door. At the very least, this buys the students time to either jump out the windows or wait for help.

3) Fighting back. This one is highly controversial, and schools refuse to endorse this option because of liability issues, but it is absolutely critical. When escape isn't possible, and the barricade breaks down, your odds of survival increase significantly if you fight. Requests to line up, questions about your belief in God, etc. are your cue that you and a whole lot of other people are about to die. Your best asset at this point is a readiness to die with your boots on.

Cho killed 30 people in the second building...if those 30 people had rushed him, would he have been able to kill them all with two handguns? If those 30 people had thrown their chairs or textbooks at his head, wouldn't one of them have found their target? Instead of 30 dead and 15 wounded, we'd be looking at two dead, two wounded. While the world would be just as bleak for two families, there'd be 28 others who would be thanking various gods that their children were still alive.

This is not meant to be a cut at the victims. I'm not assigning blame to them at all. We are not a society of warriors. We do not experience life-or-death situations on a regular basis. To be paralyzed with fear as your friends are killed is a natural, expected response. But we need to override this response with training and drill. We need to learn how to react quickly, decisively, effectively, and viciously.

Is it counterproductive to train students how to survive, when the would-be shooter is receiving this training too? That might mute the effectiveness of the training, but it won't mitigate it completely. Knowing that the doors will be locked and barricaded doesn't make it easier to get through them. Knowing that the chairs and books will be coming toward your head doesn't make it easier to avoid them. Anything we can do to increase our children's odds of survival is worth trying.

It's not ok to watch kids die anymore, in the name of liability. It's time to start facing reality.


At 4:11 PM, Blogger millhousethecat said...

I have to say that JC and I spent considerable time talking about this last night, and, in fact, the post from my blog that you referenced.

I've come to your side, sweettea. I've read your opinions, listened to what you have to say and I now think that you're right. I didn't understand before, but I understand now. And this is why...

As hard as it is to imagine throwing myself at a potential assassin, if I'm relatively sure I'm going to die, I might as well go down swinging. And if I move, someone else is likely to follow suit. Cowering in a corner, lining up, doing ANYTHING that the person with the gun tells me to do is like signing my death warrant.

I think of what JC and I have taught our children. NEVER get in the car belonging to a stranger. NEVER leave the site where the potential abductor approaches you. Scream bloody murder and run because even if he/she has a gun, you've got a better chance, statistically the ONLY chance, of surviving by doing exactly the opposite of what the assailant tells you to do.

Would this be easy to do? No. The paralyzed with fear statement that you made has got to be the most painfully true statement. Human nature doesn't allow us to believe that the person before us will actually pull the trigger, and so we convince ourselves that the last glimmer of hope comes by lining up quietly and quickly and crossing our fingers silently behind our backs.

Ironically, our school has an "intruder" drill scheduled for Monday. It's been on the calendar for months, but is quite apropos. Our drill is as follows: teacher locks the door and the children cram into a corner of the room out of sight of the intruder. It's not the best, but it's better than nothing, I suppose.

But now I know that if a person with a gun was able to get past the locked door, I would have the heaviest damn object in my hand so that when he peered around the corner, I could throw it at his head.

I'd go down swinging, and I'd give every willing student in my classroom something to throw, too.

At 5:12 PM, Blogger MarkRebuck said...

I (mostly) agree with all three points. The issue with point (1) is: When you "Get the F out of dodge", how do you know you aren't going from a place you can semi-control (the room you are in), to the chaos of the open? I would do what millhousethecat suggests, and hunker down, unless I was absolutely sure I was running away from the killer and to safety.

I would like to think I would rush the guy if he comes through the door, but rushing a person is far less effective than imagined. I have the same pistol (Glock 19) used by the VA killer. The standard clips hold 15 rounds. You can get clips of up to 31 rounds. Even an unskilled klutz like myself can swap clips in under two seconds. (Last round leaves the slide open, thumb drops spent clip, left hand inserts new clip, thumb releases slide, which chambers the first round of the new clip. Pros can do it in less than half a second.) A motivated killer with two Glock 19s and enough ammo could more than keep an unarmed/scared crowd at bay.

I wish I had better suggestions for how to avoid this stuff. I think the first thing we should do is stop giving these events 24-7 media coverage. Without the media factor, I suspect some of these homicidal maniacs would stick to being mere suicidal maniacs.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Sweet Tea said...

Rebuck, even if said assailant is a trained killer who can remain calm and fire accurately in multiple directions as 30 people rush him, is there really a better option? Lining up calmly against the blackboard has not proven to be an effective survival technique.

Fighting back is a last resort - it's never a great option against someone with a gun - but there are times when fighting back becomes your only option. It's crucial that we're trained to recognize that moment, and act decisively when it arrives.

As to your first point, people who run have the highest survival rate over people who choose any other course of action. Why ignore the statistics when you develop the training? Running is the safest, so it should be the first option.


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