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Oct 22 2013

Should teachers be trained to fight back?

Category: News,School SecurityLori @ 1:47 pm Comments (17)

After yesterday’s tragedy at the Sparks Middle School in Nevada, some reports have stated that implementing physical security for schools is not enough.  From a column in today’s edition of USA Today…

“The specific location of the shooting spree — on the playground within the school’s campus — points out the limitations of many of the security-minded proposals that have been debated in the months since last year’s Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre. No form of access control — be it a metal detector, school ID cards, or locked doors and windows — is sufficient to protect the lives of innocent children and staff members. No threat of armed resistance, such as a school resource officer or teachers with loaded guns in their desk drawers, can deter this type of senseless violence.”

Access control, cameras, visitor management systems, and other security features will not thwart every attempt to harm the children and staff in our schools, just as fire doors and sprinklers don’t always protect building occupants from a fire.  But the lack of a complete, 100% infallible solution, should not mean that we throw our hands up in defeat.  We have no way of knowing how many incidents are averted by the security that is now prevalent in our schools.

Michael Landsberry, the teacher who was killed in yesterday’s school shooting, died while attempting to protect the students.  Many school districts are training teachers to take a more active approach in a school shooting situation when they have no other choice.  Mr. Landsberry lost his life, but how many lives did he save by cutting this incident short?  Here’s a report from CNN about one of these training programs.

What’s your opinion?  Should teachers be trained to physically respond to an armed intruder in order to protect students and themselves?

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17 Responses to “Should teachers be trained to fight back?”

  1. Logan says:

    Absolutely not. If a teacher wants to take time on their own to become professionally trained, more power to them, but should teachers be taught as a part of their employment? No way.

    First, teachers already have enough on their plates. I’m not a teacher myself but I am married to one, and she spends hours and hours of her own free time just to stay on top of all the things she has to do for her job. Oh and I’m sure that this kind of training would definitely be paid for by the schools including time spent, travel, per diem, etc. Can you hear my eyes rolling?

    Second, it is just not their job. Retail employees aren’t trained to tackle shoplifters. That’s what security is for. There are laws in this country that seriously restrict vigilantism specifically because it can lead to worse situations than if a passerby were to do nothing. If someone already has the proper training (a teacher who is ex-military for example) and chooses to become involved then that person is a hero. But again, trying to add “physical combat” to the job description for a teacher is ludicrous.

    I would much rather do my part in designing safe schools and training teachers how to avoid conflict and/or shelter in place and let the professionals (police, swat, etc.) deal with the crazies their own way.


  2. Vivian Volz says:

    It makes a certain amount of sense for PTAs to offer defense training to teachers and frequent classroom volunteers, but I don’t think it should be a requirement for teachers to take the training as part of their employment. (In fact, I’m pretty sure our teachers’ union would shut that down fast, for the same reasons Logan cited.) It seems like a good idea for some teachers, and like it would tap into the wrong sort of emotion or be too physically demanding for others.

    By the same token, shelter-in-place training and smart design should still come first.

    Thanks, Lori, for putting this out there. I’d sure still rather have a lock that works, but it’s smart to be prepared for tougher situations.


  3. Safecrackin Sammy says:

    The other option is “Dont fight back”….. Not much sucess probable there..

    The teacher that was killed was a former US Marine so he obviously had HTH combat experience. Just no gun..

    As with any issue of this magnitude, I dont think there is one answer.

    I think the middle ground is making both psych and combat classes available for teachers if they want them.

    Obviously the desire should be to evade and escape but if it comes down to it, it could save lives

  4. RCW says:

    No, teachers are teachers, not law enforcement. We can make these schools and other buildings safer and more secure through electronic hardware, and training. However, as we all know, this will not happen. The school districts are very quick to cut the security from the budget. I actually had a school where they removed all EAC during the bid process except for the principals office… the only secure room in the facility. I called him a coward on a conf call.

  5. Sarah says:

    Please, don’t ask me to be trained in HTH or any other combat/defensive maneuvers. Police officers have hundreds upon hundreds of hours of training in these maneuvers, and have is spread over their entire careers, not just front-loaded in the Academy. Given all of the other professional development and training we have to do, there is NO WAY this could be done well, and I worry it is a case of “nothing is better than something”…the only thing worse than an untrained combatant is a poorly trained combatant. I am a big fan of realistic security measures in schools (even though it’s very annoying that there is only ONE unlocked door in my school, and it is only unlocked from 6:45 – 8:10 every day), and of course increased support for mental health initiatives to intervene before these people decide to get attention by using a gun on a playground. However, I’d rather spend my time figuring out how to get this child to be able to add fractions, and how to keep that child engaged while solving equations, than how to protect myself and my students – with my bare hands, no less – against a person with an automatic assault rifle.
    Also, as for the “shelter-in-place” issue, people are starting to revisit these protocols. When we look at a lot of the violence in public places over the past 15 years, some are theorizing that there are times it is safer to run than to shelter-in-place. After Newtown, I talked with my then-8th grader; I told him to follow adults’ instruction when they felt safe, but when in doubt, to run. We walked through each of his different “spaces” in the school (classrooms, cafeteria, gym, etc.) and identified 2-3 ways out of each space. I told him to turn his cell phone off, but to keep it in his pocket. If he ever needed to run away, to run until he couldn’t run any more, then call my cell phone, my husband’s cell phone, then my parents who live out of state. We all know this protocol, and know that my parents are our virtual “evacuation point” in case phone lines in the area are congested. This was extreme – and I haven’t had a similar conversation with my now-6th grader because I don’t think he could handle it – but my point is more that as parents, we need to teach our kids how to think smart, and have open and honest conversations with them.

  6. Cda says:

    Offer it if the individual teacher wants it

    To many scenarios to train to, but in many cases not just shootings but also natural disasters where teachers have reactive positively

  7. Tom Breese says:

    If a school staffer is trained in defense tactics, that person should be paid for that valuable skill. As a parent, I would find some amount of comfort in knowing that at least some staff are trained in defense, which may or may not include firearms training.

    So “should” teachers be trained? No, but those who can demonstrate competency deserve compensation.

  8. Joe Pickmann says:

    If schools are no longer allowed to discipline children in school, then why shouldn’t teachers be able to protect themselves?
    Half the problems stem from no or little discipline at school or home. Corporal punishment never killed anyone it just hurt for a short time. It made you respect authority and gave you an understanding that there are consequences for your actions. The LACK of respect these shooters have for teachers and other students is the result. Schools should not be a combat zone, but you will not make schools safer through electronic hardware it will only slow these people for a short moment. Locked doors never stopped burglars, do you honestly think it will stop someone as determined as a shooter? Shooters don’t care what will happen to anyone or anything, including themselves. If the teachers want to carry at this point by all means train them and let them protect themselves and their class.

    • Sarah says:

      I’m not sure there is a causal link between public acts of violence and lack of discipline as a child. If so, there would be a lot more public shootings. When we look at the perpetrators of these public shootings, many of them had documented mental health issues, as well as easy access to guns. While lack of discipline at home – and in society overall – could be one contributing factor, I predict it wouldn’t be as high as one might think.

      When experts have reviewed the timeline from Newtown, they have found that the shooter turned the gun on himself when he heard the police sirens coming. The calls to the police were triggered when he had to shoot out the door…because it was locked. While it is beyond comprehension that 26 people were killed that day, it could have been so much worse if he had been able to walk right through the door.

      • Joe Pickmann says:

        Like I said; the locked door did not stop the shooter. They will just slow them down. I was just saying that electronics is not the answer the doors still need to be locked by someone (electronic or mechanical). Somebody needs to be trained why not a teacher. I not saying every teacher needs to carry but, every teacher should be trained for some kind of defense for protection.
        Mental health can used by very few, you can’t tell me that the violence that we see in the metro areas is all due to mental issues or poverty. It is lack of respect for other humans. Again shooters don’t care. I see this here in Oakland, San Francisco, And San Jose everyday. Kids are being killed (7yrs old) because their cousin (19yrs old) happens to be a member of a gang. These are not not private; it’s public, they are in the streets. Its does not matter weather it is a school or theater or even a home. This maybe off subject but maybe mental health issues is just an excuse for our societies non-enforcement of morals. These morals don’t have to be religious; just commonsense.
        Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect. Remain close to the great spirit, in all that you do. Show great respect for your fellow beings (especially respect yourself). Work together for the benefit of all mankind. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed. Do what you know to be right. (But be careful not to fall into self-righteousness) Look after the well being of mind and body. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good. Be truthful and honest at all times (especially to yourself).
        TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. These are some simple non secular rules from a great Ancient Nation (North American Indian Tribes)

  9. Jack Ostergaard says:

    I have had this discussion with a number of people and several things always come out.
    1) if the the teacher has a gun in their desk how many kids does it take for them to take it away from the teacher?
    2) For an NYPD police officer to qualify on the firing range they need to score 75%. Reports show that accuracy in a street fight by those same officers is less than 20%. The numbers may not be right but the point is these are trained officers who live this 24/7. How can we expect a teacher to respond at a higher level.

  10. Cora says:

    We can’t even get enough professional development to support current curriculum…the idea that school departments could implement this well and in a comprehensive and ongoing way is hard to believe. Our students face much more danger if they don’t break out of poverty through education than they do from a random shooter. Sure, these cases make the news but I’m much more worried about teen pregnancy, drop outs, incarceration and drug involvement for kids who don’t get great education. Let’s focus on saving kids in the big picture.

  11. Murray says:

    When an unarmed teacher meets an armed crazy child, or angry student, there is a near 100% chance that the teacher, and lots of students near him will be killed or severely wounded. Let’s not kid ourselves that riot training for the teachers, a dozen locked doors, or the truly sad police response times will serve to protect our children from threats such as we’ve seen on TV lately. I happen to feel that the single largest threat to our children, and teachers in a school setting (as we are talking about schools) is the small paper sign on the front door and all the school entries, that reads “NO GUNS IN THIS BUILDING” or similar wording. The sign that proclaims to everyone who enters that there are NO ARMED PEOPLE IN THIS BUILDING. Now that’s a message that’s not lost on everyone. If an individual with a problem wants to create a mess, where could he do that, create a huge mess, and not be slowed down or even stopped, until HE decides that it’s over? Please think about that.

    Please ask yourself why has no one ever entered a police station to repeat the kind of school gun violence we have seen on national TV ? I would bet that you could NEVER find that sign on a police station in the USA anywhere. EVERYONE KNOWS that the police are armed, whether or not they could actually hit the target or not………..that part doesn’t matter a lot; it’s the fact that there are/ or might be guns in there. The sign by itself would never, as we have seen, stop an armed, determined, individual. Children of all ages are real observant, as all teachers are aware, and everyone would know if even one of the staff in a school were to conceal-carry a weapon. That fact alone provides the most protection the whole school could possibly have, and real possible life saving protection to………that individual with the weapon at the very minimum. Real safety comes from the fact that a weapon exists in that setting, could be located almost anywhere in that building at any time (of course it’s located ON THE STAFF PERSON), not in a drawer somewhere where anyone could have access to it, and not necessarily given to “John” at the reception desk making him the ONLY safety valve in the school.

    Other than using costly “design of the classrooms” to help defend the children in the case of an event ( which is possible), it takes a person with a weapon to effectively stop an armed intruder. How much safety do you want? Ask this question of a typical teacher, then ask the child’s parents the same thing. I would bet the answers do not, will never not, match. Schools are saddled with union involvement, high construction costs, and let’s not forget about that old political correctness problem. I will always go with serious answers to serious questions as reality is a great thing.

  12. Jon says:

    I’ve had a 12 gauge held to my left eye ball. I’ve felt the sense that everything was going in slow motion as my mind raced thru a thousand semi-coherent thoughts of what to do next. I know what it feels like to fight for control of a weapon and the sound and smell of someone firing that 12 gauge at me. I chose to fight and was unharmed and having had the time to think about it I know I was very lucky. I wouldn’t wish any of this on anyone.

    To those who think it’s not their job to defend their own life I’d make this simple point. The idiot who chose to do me harm didn’t ask me if I wanted to be involved. I didn’t get to tap my heels three times and say I want to go home.

    As for the question “Should teachers be trained to fight back”. That has to be answered by each school community and only once they fully understand at least two things. How quickly an incident like this can take place and just how vulnerable they are inside that building they work in.

    Knowledge is power. If the bad guy knows what he is doing and you’ve never given it a thought well…

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