“The plan we’ve been given in the past is ‘Well, lock your doors, turn off your lights and hope for the best,'” Superintendent David Hopkins said. But as deadly incidents continued to happen in schools, he explained, the district decided, “That’s not a plan.”
Home to an annual peach festival, the town isn’t known for having dangerous schools. But Hopkins said he faced a flood of calls from parents worried about safety after the attack last year at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Hopkins said he and other school leaders didn’t see why the district couldn’t rely on its own staff and teachers to protect students rather than hire someone.
“We’re not tying our money up in a guard 24/7 that we won’t have to have unless something happens. We’ve got these people who are already hired and using them in other areas,” Hopkins said. “Hopefully we’ll never have to use them as a security guard.”
Participants in the program are given a one-time $1,100 stipend to purchase a handgun and holster. Hopkins said the district is paying about $50,000 for ammunition and for training by Nighthawk Custom Training Academy, a private training facility in northwest Arkansas.
The Nighthawk training includes drills like the one Dougan participated in, with various role-playing scenarios involving shooters on campus. Dougan and other teachers in the program practiced using “airsoft” pellet guns, with students wearing protective facemasks and jackets.
“There’s pressure on you, because you’re shooting real bullets if this actually happened,” said Dougan, who has three children attending Clarksville schools. “I was nervous to start, but once it started and I was going through what they had taught us, it just took over.”
The training is narrowly tailored for teachers to respond to shooters on campus.
“That teacher is going to respond to one thing and one thing alone, and that’s someone is in the building either actively or attempting to kill people,” Jon Hodoway, director of training for Nighthawk. “That’s it. They’re not going to enforce the law. They’re not going to make traffic stops. If somebody is outside acting the fool, they’re going to call the police.”
Predictably, the education lobby and some parents are unhappy with Clarksville School District arming up, but I suspect they have little to worry about. Those faculty and staff members being trained are getting what sounds like solid training, and from what they indicate in the article, it is frankly more narrowly focused and realistic than what most police departments will ever train for regarding active shooter scenarios. Moreover, the article says that training will be on-going; it isn’t a one time seminar, which again puts this school district ahead of most law enforcement agencies.
No one is claiming that these educators will be the best defenders, but they’re going to have better situational training than most patrol officers, and they’ll be on-scene far faster.
Their greatest role, of course, is as a deterrent. While it might seem counter-intuitive to reasonable, sane people, the psychology of the kind of person that carries out a school shooting is that of someone that does not want to face the threat of violence themselves. That is the reason they typically commit suicide when police do arrive on-scene, and in most instances, they commit suicide or surrender without the first responders firing a shot.
Realistically, this sort of pro-active response by a school district works in three ways that I can see:
- It deters the attack from ever happening. The would-be shooter is dissuaded from attacking at all, because of fears his plan will be thwarted.
- It shifts target selection to another “soft” target. The shooter recognizes that this school district is armed, and may shift to another school district, or another type of target. This is what terrifies the citizen disarmament cult. They’re worried that if such programs are successful, then their campaigns to demonize firearms will fail.
- It may reduce the total number of casualties. The faster there is a response, the less time an active shooter has to make victims.
Hiding in classrooms and cutting of lights isn’t a school response plan, it’s craven denial and the avoidance of responsibility by adults who refuse to take the lives of their students seriously.
The question for parents shouldn’t be, “why is Clarksville arming their staff?” It should be, “why doesn’t my child’s school district care enough about the kids to invest in the training that could save lives, when we know these kinds of attacks sometimes happen?”