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Active Shooters – Planning & Prevention

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Why active shooter training sometimes falls short

USA Today looked at the February, 2018 shootings at Parkland, Florida. Despite planning and training, seventeen people lost their lives.

Their finding: the plan in place at Parkland was well known and easily circumvented when the shooter set off the fire alarm. Plans need to be flexible, rehearsed and updated regularly. You school needs to ensure that tactics used elsewhere will not be effective with your school plan.

The other lesson is that no training program is effective enough to guarantee another attack like the one in Parkland, Fla., won't happen again.

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ALICE: An options-based active-shooter policy for schools

One of the realities of recent shooting incidents is the police are not going to get there in time. They will get there, but not for 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes. A lot can happen in those first few minutes. Which is why schools need a plan in place that assumes they will be "on their own" for a while.

That's why programs like the ALICE Program were created. ALICE stands for

  • Alert – call 911
  • Lockdown – shelter in place
  • Inform – constant, real-time updates
  • Counter the attack – a last resort
  • Evacuate – get out!

This system acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits all strategy, and that teachers, administrators, students need an options-based plan from which a solution can be drawn.

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Comics – Speak Up! The Power of One's Voice Can Save Lives

As the Co-CEO of Archie Comics who comes from a teaching background and the founder of the Rise Above Social Issues foundation, Nancy Silberkleit was taken by graphic literacy's ability to address sensitive issues in a way that connects directly with students.

See Something, Say Something is an eight-page comic book that tells an all too familiar story of a kid who is just a tad different – in this case he is new at school, bullied and who would like to seek revenge via violence. The underlying message is that we can no longer be bystanders. If we see something we must say something otherwise who knows where the chain reaction of bullying is going to end up?

Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Douglas High School said "how tired he was of everyone picking on him and the staff doing nothing about it." His online profiles were filled with messages about shooting people and killing them. How could it be that classmates predicted and joked about Nikolas Cruz shooting kids at the school and no-one did anything about it?

Nancy feels that we need to have a conversation with students that provides them with an increased awareness of these issues, more understanding about what fuels them and most importantly some answers on the urgency towards empathy for humanity.

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One Teacher's Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings

Here's how one 6th grade schoolteacher takes time each week to look out for the lonely.

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they'd like to sit the following week. After the students have gone home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.

  • Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
  • Who can't think of anyone to request?
  • Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
  • Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

These patters tell her who's lonely, who's struggling to connect with other children, who's being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

While this may not work in other grade levels, getting feedback from students may be one of the best ways to identify who needs help.

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How Schools Are Working To Detect Threats Made On Social Media

Some schools are working with outside technology companies to scan social media for threats against them and their students, in hopes of preventing mass shootings and student suicide.

This transcript of an NPR segment for All Things Considered looks at one company's idea to identify mass shooters and suicidal students thru their online posts. It notes successes, but also the problem of incorrect identifications and privacy issues.

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List of attacks at secondary schools

Wikipedia maintains a lists of school-related attacks worldwide. The link included here is for secondary schools.

As we scanned thru this list, here are some of the things that stood out to us...

  • The number of incidents has risen dramatically in the last 10-20 years.
    • Some of this is due to better reporting, but, yes, there have been a lot more incidents lately.
  • The United States (4% of the world's population) appears on this list way more often than it should.
  • In addition to guns, knives appear regularly on this list.
  • Bullying and homophobia are listed as contributing factors in many incidents.

What other things do you notice? Would your current school policies handle incidents like the ones described?

This page was requested by Kenneth M. at the 2018 CUE Conference in Palm Springs.

One of the hardest things when researching for this page was filtering out all of the current news stories on recent shootings and the daily occurrence of students bringing guns on campus. This is a problem we need to get a handle on.

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