“How many kids have been killed by school fire in all of North America in the past 50 years? Kids killed… school fire… North America… 50 years… How many? Zero. That’s right. Not one single kid has been killed by school fire anywhere in North America in the past half a century. Now, how many kids have been killed by school violence?” So began a day-long seminar presented by David Grossman; Pulitzer Prize nominated author, West Point psychology professor, and without a doubt the world’s foremost expert on human aggression and violence.
Thankfully, the Arizona Legislature has narrowly passed a bill that will allow teachers in rural areas of our state to carry a handgun. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rich Crandall and also allows retired police officers in schools throughout the state to carry a gun. While this is much needed legislation, and is a lifesaving first step, what are the teachers and administrators in the schools within urban areas supposed to do? Mr. Grossman has a few ideas.
Grossman has been telling anyone and everyone who will listen that our Nation’s schools must immediately start practicing “Active Shooter Drills”. He points out that these drills must not be practiced in the vacuum of the school itself but with the assistance of an entire community; police, fire, SWAT, the school district, parents, and yes…children. Do we want to go there? No, but we must and Arizona must lead the way.
Grossman states: “the likelihood of having your children killed or injured in a school shooting is THOUSANDS of times greater than the probability of them being killed or injured in a school fire. Thus, we have the moral obligation to spend AT LEAST as much time and energy on school violence (the thing that IS killing our kids) as we do on school fires. Every school has sprinklers, alarms, drills, extinguishers, etc., to prep for fires, so why don’t we prepare for the thing that IS killing our kids? Now, with the threat of terrorist activity, the risk is even greater.
Grossman provides a detailed map and detailed guidance on how we get there, how we begin to practice such drills. He states: “Preparing the teachers, and drilling them is at the HEART of the operation. This should be handled like a fire plan (the model of fire planning and prep should at the heart of school shooting planning/prep). Just as the fire department is the lead player in school (and workplace) fire planning, so MUST the police department be the lead planner in school (and workplace!) violence planning. Each classroom needs to be assessed, just like each classroom needs a separate fire plan. In some rooms, you can secure students in the room, locking and/or barricading doors. Other locations may not be securable (like the library in Columbine High!) and the drill must be to move to another room that can be secured. The room does not have to be Ft. Knox! It just has to slow down an intruder/shooter long enough for the police to arrive and respond.”
When it comes to a mass shooting inside an Arizona school, I truly think that it is not a matter of if a shooting occurs, but when, and when it happens I hope Arizona schools, along with local police, fire, rescue, SWAT, parents, and children have taken Grossman’s advice and PRACTICED in real time, an “Active Shooter” Drill. This one thing will literally save the lives of Arizona children and adults.