Federal School Safety Commission Releases Final Report
On December 18th, the Federal Commission on School Safety released its final report. The commission was created in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to research and recommend strategies to increase safety in schools. The report recommends that schools implement the following practices:
- Increase mental health awareness among students and provide students with resources to treat mental health concerns
- Provide troubled students with evidence-based diversion programs
- Establish multidisciplinary threat assessment teams
- Define concerning behaviors
- Create and promote an environment of safety, trust, emotional support, and positive communication
- Strengthen Internet security measures to prevent student access to violent materials
- Develop a comprehensive school safety plan
- Implement a comprehensive active shooter preparedness program including age-appropriate training materials
- Install and utilize an effective emergency notification system (e.g. loudspeaker system)
Review your school’s current safety plan for any potential changes or additions. School safety plans should now include input from school nurses, counselors, and psychologists in addition to law enforcement and/or campus safety. Consider the use of SEL programs, technology vendors and programs such as the H.E.R.O. Program to satisfy the emerging standard of care for school safety.
Teen Gunman Killed at Indiana Middle School
Shortly after 8 a.m. on December 13th, law enforcement was notified that a 14-year-old male was armed with several firearms and heading to Dennis Intermediate School intending to engage in a school shooting. The school was immediately placed on lockdown and officers from various local law enforcement agencies responded to intercept the suspect.
A short time later, the suspect arrived at the school and was confronted by officers. The suspect, who was armed with a pistol and a rifle, shot his way through a locked glass door and made his way into the school. Officers pursued the suspect into the school and exchanged gunfire with him. The shooter was unable to access any of the locked classrooms and was cornered in a stairwell, where he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No staff, students, or officers were injured during the attack.
An investigation later revealed the shooter’s mother called 911 after she became aware of the immediate threat, likely saving an untold amount of lives at Dennis Intermediate School.
Key Learning Points
- The shooter’s mother notified law enforcement IMMEDIATELY when she became aware of an imminent threat, saving the lives of many innocent victims in the community.
- The suspect shot his way through the front glass door of the school. School shooters have previously utilized this same strategy to gain access to otherwise secured schools. Consider retrofitting your school with steel or composite doors that will not be shattered by gunfire or consider translucent ballistic tint/coating that can prevent shattering.
- The shooter entered the school but was unable to enter any of the locked classrooms. This took control out of the shooter’s hands, causing him to change his plan and creating frustration that likely led to him taking his own life.
Unplanned Active Shooter Drill Leads to Stampede
On the morning of December 6th, officials at Lake Brantley High School in Florida held an unannounced active shooter drill on campus. According to several students, there was mass confusion when “Code Red – This is not a drill” was announced on the school’s loudspeakers. Students were caught in stampedes as they tried to flee the campus and multiple injuries were reported. Additionally, several students suffered panic attacks and other emotional distress as they texted and called family members to say “goodbye”.
Key Learning Points
- Active shooter drills should NOT be conducted as a “surprise” and without context.
- Active shooter drills should NOT be conducted without notification to local law enforcement, students, staff, and parents. While the specific time of the drill may be kept a “surprise,” the fact a drill is being conducted on a specific date should not.
- Terms like “Code Red” should NOT be used as emergency notifications. During a crisis, it’s much more effective to use plain language to inform others of danger.
- In the event of a real emergency, the statement “This is not a drill” should NEVER be used. Any malfunction or distraction could cause the intended listen to hear “This is a drill.” Drills should be announced as drills; actual emergencies should not be.
- Inappropriate active shooter drills can harm staff and students both physically and psychologically and can incur legal liability.