Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Schools Prepare for Worst Case Scenarios with Active Shooter Training

Highlands High School. FTM file. 
By Amanda (Joering) Dibiaso

Columbine...Virginia Tech...Sandy Hook.

Just the mention of these schools is enough to strike fear in the hearts of teachers, parents and students alike.

At these schools, among many others across the nation, the unimaginable happened. Individuals came to the schools and took the lives of students, teachers and in some cases, themselves.

While many would like to think incidents like these couldn’t happen where they live, the Fort Thomas Independent Schools aren’t taking any chances.

Recently all teachers and staff at all five of the district’s schools went through active shooter training with the Fort Thomas Police.

Assistant Superintendent Jon Stratton said while Fort Thomas is a very safe place to live and the district has been adding new security features to the schools the past few years, being prepared in case of an emergency is very important.

Until recently, the district’s plan in case of an incident was to lock the doors and wait it out. But this year, the district took the recommendations of the US Secret Service, US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Education into consideration and decided to implement updated training with the help of the Fort Thomas Police.

The new procedure, Stratton said, involves the run, hide, fight method. That means that if staff becomes aware of a threat and can safely get themselves and students away safely, that should be the first option. The second option is to hide, using methods of barricading the doors, that they learned in the training. The third option, only to be used when absolutely necessary, is to fight back.

“This gives teachers and students the best chance to survive if the worst should happen,” Stratton said.

Sergeant Chris Carpenter, who organized the training, said it included definitions and descriptions of what constitutes active shooter events, a discussion of facts and trends from past active shooter events to raise awareness and educate school staff, options for deterring these events, and instructions on how to deal with the event if it occurs.

For the first time in Fort Thomas Schools, the training also included interactive scenarios where police officers did role playing to give staff an opportunity to apply what they’d learned.

“It is a travesty that this type of training has to be conducted in an educational institution for children. However, the reality is that we are remiss in our responsibilities as law enforcement, educators, and parents if we do not address this possibility as a part of the world we live in,” Carpenter said. “We must train for the world as it is and not as we wish it to be.  This training is important because however slim the chances are that it will happen in Fort Thomas, the fact is that it happens in similar communities all over the country.  We owe it to our children and community to be prepared.”

Carpenter said the training was a success thanks to the forward thinking of the district’s administrators, board, teachers, and staff and the cooperation of other local police agencies including Southgate, Campbell County, Highland Heights, Newport and more.

“It was encouraging to see such dedication and commitment from Fort Thomas schools,” Carpenter said. “This community is blessed to have so many that care for the safe education of children.”

Stratton commended the police for all the work they put in to the training.

“They did an outstanding job...in presenting this information, developing scenarios for our staff, and answering questions about this very emotional and sensitive topic,” Stratton said.

Stratton said a lot of good feedback was received from the staff. While the reality of the training led to a lot of tears and anxiety, he said they left feeling empowered and more prepared.

Teacher Kathleen Lemmons said that with all the school shootings happening in the country, she felt it was time that Fort Thomas Schools had a training like this, and that she is grateful for all the care and planning that went into it.

“The proactive procedures practiced on this day were a 180 degree change from past procedures,” Lemmons said. “I definitely feel that I could respond in a way that could keep the students in my care as safe as possible.”

Along with the training for teachers and staff, the district also held a parent meeting to address any questions and concerns.

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