Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Students Get Training on Active Shooters ; Kanawha Schools Program Leaves Open the Option to Physically Confront Shooter

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Students Get Training on Active Shooters ; Kanawha Schools Program Leaves Open the Option to Physically Confront Shooter

Article excerpt

As part of a new training program, Kanawha County schools officials are now telling students and teachers they shouldn't automatically hunker down in classrooms if there's someone with a gun in their school. Perhaps most controversial is the program's guidance that students can physically confront a shooter as a last resort. The U.S. Department of Education doesn't recommend that, but Katherine Schweit, the FBI's senior executive in charge of its active shooter initiative, wrote in an email to the Gazette-Mail that "Run, hide or fight - or some combination of those - is the reality of the three options everyone has during an active shooter situation.

Keith Vititoe, who became Kanawha's new school security director in April, said school employees and students are now learning under the Medina, Ohio-based ALICE Training Institute's program that their best chance to survive an active shooter is to evacuate if they have a clear, safe path toward an exit.

If they can't escape, they're being taught to lock and barricade the door to their classroom with objects like desks and filing cabinets.

"They're looking for convenient targets, Vititoe said. "We want to make it nigh impossible for them to get into those classrooms.

If all else fails and the shooter still enters the room, teachers - along with students in middle and high schools - are being taught to "counter the attacker through actions like yelling, moving around and throwing books and other objects at the intruder to distract him or her from shooting accurately. They are also being told they can "swarm the attacker as a group to bring the gunman to the ground.

"We're not teaching any martial arts moves, Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo or anything like that, Vititoe said. "We're not teaching anyone to go and look for danger, it's just the opposite. We're teaching it's a strategy of last resort. Vititoe said elementary schoolers aren't being taught counter techniques. The ALICE program only recommends high schoolers be taught the swarm tactic, but stresses implementation is left to school districts.

Vititoe said Kanawha is increasing the number of mandatory active shooter drills this school year from one to four, and has paid $24,000 to purchase online licenses for about 1,000 non-teacher school employees, like clerks and information technology employees, to receive ALICE training. He said local law enforcement agencies have also paid for their employees to receive ALICE instruction, and those officers have in turn trained teachers, who are in the process of passing the new procedure on to students.

All Kanawha schools will have pre-announced lockdown drills using the new methods early next month, but there won't be more elaborate role-play events involving police and fake shooters.

Vititoe - who took his current position after retiring from 22 years with the county sheriff's office, where he led the SWAT team, trained the entire sheriff's office twice on how to respond to active shooters and customized his own presentation on the subject for presentations at colleges, Charleston Area Medical Center, the Girl Scouts and other groups - said past shootings have demonstrated the traditional lockdown method "doesn't always keep you safe, so we have to do a little bit more.

New thinking on active shooter responses

An FBI-commissioned study of "active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 found 27 occurred in pre-K-12 schools across the U.S. The 2012 shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 27 people were killed, resulted in the second-highest number of deaths among the 160 active-shooter events identified at all locations during that timeframe - behind only the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, when 32 died.

The study found the shooter was a student at the school in a dozen of the 14 high school shootings - one was a former student, and another a student at a different school. Five out of the six middle school shooters were students at their schools. …

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