Every parent’s worst nightmare, a school shooting. I can’t imagine having to experience it as a kid, a teacher, or a parent. I vaguely remember an incident in my high school where a kid brought a gun to class. Luckily, he didn’t use it and the situation was quickly resolved. It was in the classroom across the hall from me, so there’s little doubt I would have been involved to some degree had things gone bad.
Throughout my career, I went through what police call “rapid rescue” or “rapid response” training on more than one occasion. I won’t get into details, but essentially the training was geared toward how to respond to an active shooter, primarily in a large building like a school. When I was a patrol officer on the day shift, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that an active shooter at a school was my worst nightmare. I thought about the possibility of that call coming out every single day, usually as I put my patrol rifle in my squad car at the beginning of my shift. I knew if I had my rifle, I was equipped to get into that situation and handle business with accuracy and confidence. Pistols are just not as accurate, especially at longer distances and under extreme stress, so I was thankful I had that tool. In preparation of my worst nightmare coming true, I studied where all the schools were and even the ones near the borders of my patrol division. I probably should have prepared more and walked through them a few times, but I didn’t. Thankfully, that call never came.
So what is the million dollar school shooting solution? I’ve thought about it, like most of you probably have and I never quite reached a perfect answer. I would hope if there was one, it would have been implemented by now. Short of turning schools into something resembling a prison, I don’t know if there is a hard and fast, guaranteed way to prevent any and all mass shootings in schools. Can you imagine making all of the school windows bulletproof, requiring access cards to get from room to room, pat downs and metal detectors at every entry point, armed guards with a bird’s eye view of the perimeter? Sounds awful.
Also, before I go any further, this topic could turn political quickly and that is certainly not my intention. I am looking at this solely from a police and teacher perspective in regards to their roles in prevention and in ending an incident quickly, should one arise.
First off, I think school resource officers are paramount in every school. They have so many upsides, I don’t see why a school wouldn’t have one. To start, they are there daily and get to know the kids. By always being there, they know who likes who, who fights with who, and may even have an idea of someone that could be at risk of carrying out such an atrocity. As we have seen in the past, there are usually warning signs, but not always. This doesn’t mean that intervention or prevention by police is a certainty. Hindsight is always 20/20. Sadly, people fail to realize that law enforcement could intervene in certain situations, however, we don’t live in a full on “Big Brother” society that allows police to follow “those suspected of being dangerous” on a 24 hour basis. Police aren’t always ready to step in at the first sign of trouble. That just simply isn’t realistic. I hate to break it to you, that’s just the truth.
Yes, you could arrest a bad apple for making threats or getting into fights or whatever it is that the bad apple did to raise suspicion. If you’re being realistic about how KIDS are dealt with criminally, unless they kill someone, they will eventually be released to a parent or guardian and able to carry out their previous threats, should they be so determined. It’s just a fact. Unless people are honestly willing to lock up kids forever anytime they threaten to carry out a mass shooting, then the notion that it is solely up to the police and justice system to intervene is ridiculous.
Should we arm teachers? Initially, I was like, “Heck yeah we should!” And to some degree, I see benefits of it. But like most things in life, there are also drawbacks or unintended consequences we must consider. To start, where do you keep the firearm and how do you ensure it won’t be taken and used against kids in the school by a bad actor? Even if the teacher keeps it on their person, they could be disarmed by a big angry kid who has been bullied for years. Do you secure it in a safe in the classroom? If so, will the firearm be accessible when it is needed when seconds matter? Which teachers should be armed? Do we take volunteers and only allow those who may have a military background, are avid hunters, or have a concealed weapons permit? That seems to make sense, but it may not be the perfect solution, if one even exists. I don’t see the advantage or forcing someone who has no interest in using a gun, to use one. They’d likely be more of a danger than a help, if an active shooter took place.
Maybe if teachers were armed there would have to be extremely strict rules and protocols that had to be followed? For example, if a shooting is taking place, as soon as the school went into lockdown, any armed teachers must remain in the room they are in, no matter what. An armed teacher could only confront a shooter, IF the shooter managed to enter a “locked down room” and it was vital and necessary to take action, in order to protect themselves and the kids in that particular room. Basically, no running around with pistols in your hand trying to save the day. If a teacher is armed and is actively attempting to find and end the shooting while police are also running into the school, how do they know who are “good guys” and who is the “bad guy”? I know the arguement to this will be, “So just sit there while the shooter is actively killing? It defeats the purpose!” Yes, this topic is difficult. No one shooting is exactly the same. You can plan all day and set up measures to prevent a shooting and one could still happen.
In a recent presentation I attended about the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the officer said when he ran into the building it was complete chaos. The fire alarms were going off, water was spraying everywhere from bullets that hit waterlines, and everyone was screaming and running. Communication was nearly impossible. Adding teachers running around with guns into the mix, doesn’t seem like a great solution to the problem, it could easily make the incident worse and lead to even more tragedy. That is why I think the lockdown method may be the most realistic. If nearly every room had a gun, then the hope would be that the threat would be neutralized quickly. Of course, everything always sounds good in theory.
Lastly, let’s not forget, it takes a special person to run toward a horrible event like an active shooter. There’s no other way to put it. Human nature tells us to run away. So we need to consider the absolute courage it would take to confront a shooter in a school. Not to mention, asking a teacher to shoot someone they likely know as a student. Horrible to even think about, I know. I can assure you, the idea of it isn’t any better if you’re a police officer. I’ve said this many times in my articles, police officers don’t want to kill anyone. Period. I don’t care if they’re the biggest monster in the world, in the end, you’re taking a life and that isn’t normal. I don’t care what anyone says, it will change you. The training for this type of incident using fake ammunition similar to paint balls, really gets your adrenaline going. I can’t imagine what it is like heading into a live situation where the consequences are real and permanent. I would like to think that if I was charged with handling that kind of situation, I would have in an efficient and effective way. Luckily, I never had to find out.
So what is the solution? I honestly don’t know. I think every solution needs to be heavily thought out and we consider pros and cons of every decision. I think ultimately it starts with parents, and trickles down to teachers and eventually the kids. Bullying is a major issue. I have yet to hear of a situation where a student likely to be voted “Homecoming King” goes on a killing spree to get revenge on all the people that like him. That isn’t a joke, it just highlights an obvious underlying root cause, being bullied, ostracized, and picked on.
So what can parents, teachers, and kids do? Well you know the answer to that. Be smart, be vigilant, and be kind. See something, say something. All the clichés are already out there. Also, we can’t ignore the harsh reality that there is a certain percentage of humans that are just pure evil. There’s no other word for it. Evil. Someone that is pure evil, likely can’t be stopped if they are determined to be evil. If I figure out how to prevent or stop someone from carrying out acts of pure evil, I will let you know. Until then, stay safe and take care.
Thank an officer today.
The Officer Next Door