Student Superintendent Leads School Safety Reform Efforts
WCNC News in Charlotte, NC recently interviewed Eliza Tran, the Student Superintendent at Myers Park High School about her efforts to spur school safety reform in her district. Eliza spoke at length about the fear she and other students experienced in the wake of four gun-related incidents on nearby campuses in the past year. In one incident, a student posted a picture of a gun on campus to his social media account. During this incident, Eliza sent text messages to friends and family to “say goodbye”. As a result of this incident, Eliza decided to speak up and bring a student voice to school safety discussions at the district level. The district is listening – Eliza will be present at monthly meetings and will contribute a student perspective to future district safety decisions.
Key Learning Points
- Students are afraid of being involved in active shooter incidents at school.
- Students can’t learn when they’re afraid!
- Students want to take a leadership role in creating a safe learning environment.
- Students are primary stakeholders in schools and districts, therefore their opinions and perspectives should always be considered when making decisions related to their safety.
- Students do not want to feel like they’re “in jail” at schools.
- The majority of students oppose drastic physical security measures such as armed teachers and metal detectors.
- By giving students a voice and teaching them how to keep themselves safe, we can empower them and significantly reduce anxiety.
6 Killed in Industrial Facility Shooting
On February 15th, a 45-year-old employee of an Aurora, Illinois manufacturing company went on a shooting rampage inside the company’s 29,000-square-foot facility. The shooter was terminated at a meeting and immediately shot and killed three employees in the meeting. The shooter then began firing at employees inside the facility, killing three more. 5 police officers were shot as they attempted to locate and neutralize the shooter inside the sprawling facility. The suspect was shot and killed by police officers after he engaged them in a gunfight. All 5 officers are expected to make a full recovery. Nearby, local schools were placed on lockdown until the incident was resolved.
Key Learning Points
- Although this incident did not take place at a school, it’s important to recognize that similar mass shootings (typically initiated by domestic violence disputes) have occurred at schools.
- Multiple police officers were shot as they attempted to locate the suspect, likely due to the layout of the manufacturing facility. If you have a large, complicated school campus, make sure local law enforcement is familiar with your campus layout and conducts a “walk through” with your administration. Also, make sure all buildings are clearly labeled on all sides. This will help law enforcement respond to the appropriate location in a timely manner and coordinate a tactical response.
- The shooter was a convicted felon and had a history of domestic and other violent incidents.
- The shooter was armed with a handgun, which was concealed in the clothing he wore into his prescheduled termination meeting.
- If a meeting is scheduled with a potentially violent parent or employee, notify local law enforcement and request that they “keep the peace” during the meeting.
Threat Assessments Critical in Preventing School Violence
Nationwide, lawmakers are working to enact legislation related to school safety and active shooters. In Florida, provisions are being drafted to include mandatory threat assessment procedures. Rick Swearingen, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was recently interviewed regarding Florida’s school safety legislation efforts. According to Swearingen, threat assessment teams are critical in identifying threats and utilizing appropriate interventions.
And while threat assessment procedures are conducted by the majority of schools and districts in the US, not all threat assessments are created equal. In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS shooting, the MSDHS Public Safety Commission found that administrators involved in the shooter’s threat assessment were unfamiliar with the process and rendered inappropriate interventions.
Key Learning Points
- ALL active shooters have exhibited similar, identifiable behavioral characteristics prior to committing their attacks.
- Threat assessment teams should be comprised of qualified, experienced professionals.
- Every school should have a threat assessment policy prior to the existence of a threat.
- Educators and students should be aware of and know how to report concerning behavioral cues.
- Schools and districts can incur massive legal liability if threat assessments are mismanaged.