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School Shooting Preparedness Blog Series, Part 3

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We were joined by crisis response expert and Principal of Behavioral Science Applications, Steven Crimando, who discussed up-to-date crisis management and violence protection strategies for teachers and students to mitigate and prevent school shooting scenarios. Our expert answers a series of questions about preventing school shootings in our blog series, School Shooting Preparedness. And don’t miss our upcoming webinar on Thursday, July 26th at 2pm ET, Protecting Your Schools from Active Shooter IncidentsMake sure you didn’t miss part 1 or part 2 of our blog series!

School shootings are gaining awareness around the country, and schools everywhere are taking action to prevent them. In fact, in 2016, the CDC found nearly 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for responding to school shootings, and 70 percent of those schools had drilled students on the plan. That’s great news, but how can schools ensure their active shooter preparedness plans are as effective as possible?

What are the responsibilities of teachers during school shootings? What should their training focus on?

Consistent with this theme, teachers really should receive formal training in the recognition of behaviors and communications that are associated with violence. The U.S. Secret Service has just release a new guide for schools, “Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model: An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence,”[i] stressing the importance of schools developing multidisciplinary threat assessment teams and providing training in early identification for all stakeholders.

The science around this continues to evolve and many teachers are operating with dated ideas of what to look out for. For example, being a “loner” is not a viable risk factor. Many people are quiet, reserved, and don’t seek a lot of social interaction. The question is not if someone is alone, but why. If someone is alone because others won’t let them in, for example to sit at the cool kid’s lunch table, be on the team, go to the dance, then some individuals leave those interactions feeling hurt, angry and vengeful. Teachers need to be on the lookout, not necessarily for the loner, but rather for the “incompetent joiner.”

To the question about responsibility, there is no doubt that teachers owe a duty of care to students. When this duty starts, where it ends and precisely what constitutes a breach of duty are not nearly as clear. The prevalence of school shootings that thrust teachers into a new role, that of classroom defender. Teachers are trained to teach. Not all would have the physical or mental capabilities to effectively fight off a shooter, but the “reasonableness” standard today, absent of any test cases in the courts, seems to be whether a teacher had the knowledge, ability and skills to protect their students, and if they followed the school’s guidance in executing a response.

My thinking about training is again, a greater emphasis on identification and reporting of at-risk students and others, and a model of non-linear response actions. Active shooter incidents are very dynamic and fluid. Teaching an approach which is absolute, like each classroom will lock-down and students will hide is limiting, and I think can have deadly results. I believe teachers need to be practiced in a range of options and remain flexible during the incident to change their course of action. The model is no longer “Run-Hide-Fight,” but rather “Run or hide or fight, so some blend of those options, changing on the fly as the situation evolves. Of course, how this is implemented has to be appropriate to the age and developmental stage of the students, but flexibility is empowering and decreases feelings of helplessness. There should not be absolutes, like “always” and “never” since each situation will be unique and teachers will have to use their instincts, intuition and best judgement when confronted with the totality of the circumstance.


Join us on Thursday, July 26th at 2pm ET to hear more from our expert on the topic during our webinar, Protecting Your Schools from Active Shooter Incidents.