Fight and flight: the new approach to school shooters

Mountain View Whisman district adopting several options if there is gunfire on campus

After the school shooting at Sandy Hook, as many as 74 school shooting incidents have occurred in the United States, most recently in Seattle and Oregon. With the spike in shootings, local school districts are looking at new ways to prepare and react if there is an active shooter on campus.

A few weeks ago, Mountain View Whisman School District board members unanimously approved a newly revised emergency response policy if there is an active shooter on campus. According to Kathi Lilga, executive assistant to the superintendent, the new response goes well beyond the traditional "lockdown" strategy, and suggests teachers and students find ways to flee the campus or, at worst, defend themselves against an attacker.

In a presentation to the board titled "Run Hide Defend," Lilga explained that based on recent school shootings, students taking shelter in a lockdown had a lower rate of survival than people who assessed the situation and decided between evacuation, lockdown and defensive measures.

Lilga said the Sandy Hook shooting was a prime example: the students did everything "right" in a lockdown-only response and it was one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, with 20 students and 6 staff members slain.

So what should teachers and students do instead? In the revised plan is a simple flow chart. The first option is to attempt a safe evacuation. If the shooter is far away or the sound of gunshots is distant, students and staff are advised to lead students away to a nearby, safe location. This could be someone's backyard or a nearby building. Fleeing the campus means running as fast as possible from the shooter, according to a presentation by the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs Association.

If students cannot safely flee the campus, the well-known lockdown strategy is still in effect. This includes locking and barricading doors, lights turned off and students sheltered behind a secondary barricade. Lilga said the police chiefs' presentation also suggested students wedge textbooks behind their heads if they're leaning against walls to further protect themselves.

If the shooter enters the room, the new strategy suggests teachers and students should "believe that they should survive" and defend themselves. This could mean discharging a fire extinguisher at the intruder or throwing books and other objects in an attempt to disrupt him or her.

The county police presentation suggests students "commit to their actions," attack as aggressively as possible, improvise weapons and make loud noises to disorient the shooter.

Defending can mean different things depending on the grade level. Because the policy is designed for students from 5 to 14 years old, there is no "one size fits all" for how to react. Lilga said it's likely that kindergarteners will be told to just run if a shooter makes it in. Eighth graders, on the other hand, might be more capable of throwing books or taking someone down.

The three-tiered response puts more responsibility on teachers and faculty to assess the situation and figure out the best course of action, which means they'll need training. Lilga said teachers, along with classified staff like janitors and secretaries, will have to go through training seminars with local police officers on the new plan in the coming fall.

It also means a bad call could put lives at risk, but Lilga said that should not affect staff decisions. She said they are covered by Good Samaritan laws, which prevents people from being liable for civil damages if they act in good faith to help in emergency situations.

Currently the district has no plans to tell students about the newly revised response. Lilga said teacher input during staff training will help determine "age appropriate discussions" that could be held with students. Students will continue to practice lockdowns, which the school has down for the last eight or nine years.

Board trustee Chris Chiang voiced concerns over whether details for the revised response should be openly released to the public, which could benefit an attacker. But the new strategy was presented publicly by the police chiefs and is available online, and Lilga said there was also local television coverage of the change.


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Posted by Readin', Writin', Rumblin'
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

God Bless America!

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Posted by Only thing to fear is fear itself
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Only thing to fear is fear itself!!

If it happens, just stay calm and react the way you think you should, whether it's flight or fight.

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Posted by Croc Dundee
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Please be more cautious in relying on facts asserted by parties with an agenda. There have not been 74 "school shooting incidents" since Sandy Hook.
See the Politifact article on this subject, which rates the claim "mostly false" and explains why. <Web Link;

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Posted by We were once a great nation
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm

America is powerless to stop this...said no other country except America.

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Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Well this is a step in the right direction. I'm all for giving students and teachers power to decide what to do on the ground as things are happening.

I do think it's crazy to tell someone to bring a fire extinguisher to a gun fight or to "improvise" a weapon.. we're not all McGyver.

I'd say let teachers carry guns but I know that would never happen in this part of the country.

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Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Correct link cited by Croc Dundee, above:
Web Link

Tl/dr: The "74 school shootings since Sandy Hook" trope uses a very, *very* loose definition of "school shooting."

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Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Peace/love and Croc-- exactly, then, how many "real" school shootings is acceptable to you? What level of senseless gun violence in the vicinity of children is within your comfort zone?

the gun worshipping crowd boggles my mind. From now on, I will always associate you and your ilk with the sad and weak open-carry misfits in Texas. Overgrown children who only have any power by intimidation. Sad little people

Like this comment
Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

"When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns..." Organized crime will be sure they're available to all the ne'er do wells who want them.

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Posted by More on that article
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Here is the gist of the story that Croc Dundee mentions below...

My take: were there guns involved? YES; was it at a school? YES. I go with 74.

We reviewed news reports for all 74 shootings and did our best to sort them into five categories. Here’s our breakdown. (See individual shootings by category here, with clickable links to news reports on each shooting.)

• Incidents such as Sandy Hook or Columbine in which the shooter intended to commit mass murder: 10 instances
• Incidents related to criminal activity (such as drug dealing or robbery), or personal altercations: 39 instances
• Incidents unconnected to members of school community and/or that took place outside school hours: 16 instances
• Suicides: 6 instances
• Accidental discharges: 3 instances

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Posted by Zekkulas Bulgaris
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I believe children should be given guns, just like in Texas.
God bless Texas.

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Posted by Gary Schaefer
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I'll bet these numbers were taken from Bloomberg's inflated propaganda.
Consisting of shootings by Gangs, close by and others all not during school hours. That's not my point however as even one child killed in school by gun violence is way too many.

If you are going to "LOCK DOWN" you need a "SAFE ROOM".
If you are going to "FLEE" you need to be sure you're not running into the attacker or his accomplices as has happened.

We could retrofit schools to add a "safe room" or make all classrooms a "bunker" or assign a Police office to each school, or Private security, all would be very expensive. Retrofits would take time.

I feel any teacher that's legally qualified and wants to, should be allowed to take the CCW course. When that course is completed, issued a CCW permit and allowed to carry on school grounds during class time. That school can then assign these teachers strategic classrooms and put on a schools response team. The response team could have special communications to the police and each other via handheld radios.
These teachers would provide an immediate ability to actively stop an attacker. This is the best, most cost effective way to be sure our children are protected.

I'm even willing to bet there are a lot of people and businesses that would willingly donate ammo for these teachers to remain properly trained and proficient with their skills.

Like this comment
Posted by Rod Rammersmith
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Children with guns? are you mad? I mean i could see TASER training courses and having TASERS in hallways like fire extinguishers but kids guns is just asking for abuse!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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