With memories of the Newtown, Conn., shooting still fresh in the minds of Americans, why on earth would a school want to hold an unannounced active shooter drill using its staff of teachers as victims without their prior knowledge?
That’s a question likely to come up in the days ahead, especially at the Pine Eagle Charter School in rural Halfway, Ore., in the eastern part of the state, where school officials decided the unannounced “drill” would be a good way to test whether active shooter training provided earlier by the Union County Sheriff’s Office was effective.
Per The Oregonian:
Two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns burst into the Pine Eagle Charter School in this tiny rural community on Friday. Students were at home for an in-service day, so the gunmen headed into a meeting room full of teachers and opened fire.
Someone figured out in a few seconds that the bullets were not drawing blood because they were blanks and the exercise was a drill, designed to test Pine Eagle’s preparation for an assault by “active shooters” who were, in reality, members of the school staff. But those few seconds left everybody plenty scared.
‘It was shocking’
“I’ll tell you, the whole situation was horrible,” said elementary teacher Morgan Gover, 31.
“I got a couple in the front and a couple in the back,” she said, adding that perhaps two of the school’s 15 teachers in the school would have survived.
“It was shocking,” elementary teacher Dollie Beck, 54, told the paper.
To say the least.
Not surpringly, Principle Cammie DeCastro has heard some criticisms of the drill from some people in the small community of 288, but she remains convinced it was a valuable exercise.
“For us not to know how we were going to respond is leaving us open,” she said, which got agreement from Beck and Gover.
“I’m in charge of a pile of kids,” said Gover. “It made me analyze as a teacher what my role is for these babies.”
The next step, says DeCastro, is for the school Safety Committee and School Board to critically evaluate the school’s policies and procedures before deciding what to do next.
One possibility: Arming teachers, she said. The district could even get armed and trained volunteers from the community to keep watch over the school in shifts. Tougher doors and better locks are a possibility as additional options.
According to the paper, Gover said the teachers tend to favor having one or two armed teachers in the building at all times.
“We are so remote we are going to have to take care of ourselves,” said Gover.
Prepare, sure, but like this?
It’s a good thing one of the teachers didn’t already “better prepare” the day of the exercise and come to school armed. It’s also a good thing no one who was armed was nearby to hear the commotion, otherwise the “exercise” could have turned into a tragedy.
But beyond that, and though some of the teachers thought the idea was a good one to test readiness, it might have made more sense to at least warn teachers in advance that, at some point, phony active shooters would enter the school.
One other point: Without the kids there, the exercise might have been next to useless, because with young charges in their care, teachers are bound to behave differently. Perhaps they would have become more protective of their kids, like the brave teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, or maybe they would just react in a completely different manner. Who knows? And that’s the point.
Here’s a final thought. Some believe that, with all of the fear-mongering in the wake of Sandy Hook, exercises like the one at Pine Eagle simply incite or create more fear.
Sources for this article include: