Preparing Parents for Violent Intruders
Last month, Virginia Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg proposed a bill that would require every school in Virginia to give parents a 24-hour warning prior to conducting an active shooter or lockdown drill at their school. The bill is designed to give parents the opportunity to discuss this particularly-sensitive topic with their children and eliminate any “false alarms” for parents who were unaware of a drill.
Key Learning Points
- Parents should always be informed of a lockdown or active intruder drill prior to the drill, preferably a week ahead of time.
- Active intruder and lockdown drills pose unique logistical and psychological challenges, particularly for younger children, and should not be conducted in the same manner and regularity as fire drills or other disaster drills.
- Certain children are uniquely sensitive, and their parents may not want them participating in an active intruder or lockdown drill, regardless of the consequences in a real emergency. It’s important to take into account these students’ needs (special education or emotionally sensitive) in order to provide equity and access to all students involved.
- Parents should be very familiar with your school’s response to active intruders and lockdowns. Contact Safe Kids Inc. if you have questions about preparing parent-facing messaging and other communication concerns regarding active intruder drills.
Elementary School Faces Backlash After Armed Man Granted Access to Campus
On January 4th at approximately 9 a.m., a shirtless 21-year-old man, Nazher Sabree, approached Park Lane Elementary School in Darby Borough, Pennsylvania. Sabree activated a buzzer at the school’s entrance and spoke to an employee on the other end of the device in the school’s office. The employee buzzed Sabree into the office and Sabree told the principal he was looking for his lost bag. The principal escorted Sabree off the campus but did not immediately notify law enforcement.
Approximately three hours later, Sabree was seen walking around the neighborhood knocking on doors. The principal of Park Lane Elementary thought Sabree’s behavior was suspicious, so she called the police. Officers arrived to speak to Sabree, but he immediately ran away. Officers pursued Sabree on foot and he was eventually subdued after a struggle with four police officers. Sabree was in possession of a stolen handgun and narcotics at the time he was arrested.
Key Learning Points
- Sabree never should have been granted access to a secure elementary school campus. It was later discovered the school employee who buzzed him in recognized him as a former student.
- The school waited approximately three hours before notifying law enforcement. Law enforcement should have been notified of Sabree’s behavior IMMEDIATELY.
- School officials should have notified parents of the incident. Unfortunately, parents were not notified and learned of the incident via the news. This led to strong public sentiment against the principal and heightened political tensions.
- Regardless if a person is a former student, teacher, parent, or otherwise related to a school campus, caution should always be exercised in granting access to anyone during school hours.
Oregon SRO Shoots Armed Father During Custody Dispute
On January 11th, an Oregon mother became aware that her ex-husband enrolled their daughter at Cascade Middle School without her permission. School officials called the father, a 30-year-old Army veteran, to come to the school to discuss the matter.
The father arrived at the school, and shortly thereafter the school requested an SRO respond to mediate. When the SRO and his partner arrived, the father began arguing with the officers. The father began telling the officers they had no authority to be involved in the matter and told his daughter (who was nearby), “Go!” When the officers attempted to escort the father outside, he refused. The officers forcibly moved the father outside the front doors of the school, where he became combative and pulled a pistol on the officers. The father fired two rounds at one of the officers but missed. One of the officers fatally shot the father, ending the incident.
Key Learning Points
- Domestic violence and custody disputes account for the highest incidence of gun violence at schools.
- The suspect’s daughter was present during the entire incident and witnessed the shooting. NO children should be present anywhere near a custody matter or other “adult” school business being discussed with parents.
- The suspect was in possession of a loaded handgun, a loaded extra magazine on his belt, additional ammunition in his backpack, and an additional loaded magazine in his vehicle.
- The suspect had a valid CCW (concealed-carry weapons permit). CCWs are typically invalid on school grounds (law enforcement excepted). If you or any staff members become aware of any parent (other than a law enforcement officer) carrying a firearm on campus, notify law enforcement IMMEDIATELY.
- Police should have been notified before the father was called to the school. Often, the presence of police officers and vehicles can dissuade incidents of violence and may have kept the suspect from bringing his gun inside the school.
- Encourage parents AND faculty to discuss potential violent domestic issues with school administration. Issuance of restraining orders, child custody orders, and other domestic issues often catch school officials off-guard. Having a plan and being aware of potentially violent situations can help resolve explosive situations before they occur.