Janesville school resource officer Todd Bailey told Parker High School teachers they wouldn’t be able to cover every school safety scenario they’d ever face.
That didn’t stop teachers from trying.
On Monday, while students were still on spring break, Parker High School teachers practiced their newly acquired “run, hide and fight” responses to school shooting scenarios.
Teachers ran through three scenarios—an active shooter alarm during passing time, a threat moving through the school and a student with a gun that required teachers to sound the alarm from their classroom.
After each scenario, teachers discussed what went well and what they could have done differently.
In all cases, teachers had plenty of “what if” questions.
What if their door opened out instead of in? What if their doors didn’t lock? What if their windows don’t open? What if a group of students wanted to leave, using the “run” instead of the “hide” option? How should they deal with a student in a wheelchair? How do they figure out where the shooter is?
Before the drill, Bailey and school officials explained best practices for school shootings were evolving, and with every incident something new is learned. Even drills reveal changes that should be made.
Parker Assistant Principal Jolene Terrones and Dean of Students Brian Martin listed some of the changes that had been made since the last drill. They included simple changes such as additional doors being locked after 8:05 a.m.
In addition, when teachers return to their classrooms Tuesday, they’ll find each equipped with safety clipboards with class rosters, cellphone numbers and secondary cellphone numbers of administrators, and possible escape routes from their classrooms.
Even the concept of “hide, run and fight” is new. In the past, the focus on school security was on “hide,” Janesville School District security specialist Brian Donohoue explained in a previous interview with The Gazette.
But based on what happened at other shootings—who survived and who didn’t—“run and fight” are now plausible choices.
Bailey encouraged teachers to consider what classroom items might make good weapons. A fire extinguisher, scissors, chairs—whatever was handy.
“Commit to your actions, don’t hesitate,” a PowerPoint presentation instructed.
The “fight” scenario also prompted a lot of discussion.
What were they allowed to use? Could they have pepper spray in school? If not pepper spray, how about Aqua Net? Could they have a baseball bat in school? How about golf clubs?
A school in Pennsylvania made the national news after it placed buckets of river rocks in classrooms. Another teacher heard about schools using cans of soup as weapons.
Parker math teacher Liz Kohn said she might prefer the “fight” option. It certainly was better that being all “sitting in a corner waiting to be shot like fish in a barrel.”
Still, the discussion aggravated some.
“We shouldn’t have to deal with this at all,” Kohn said. “It makes me so angry.”
If Monday’s drills had a winner, it was certainly Room 2137.
The drill called for teachers to practice “run.” In a surprise twist, teachers were then told that there was an active shooter in the hall. They turned back to the room and set off the “hard lockdown” alarm.
Led by teacher Angie Zarnowski, the group barricaded the door, flipped over tables to hide behind and armed themselves with everything from metal chairs to a large fan.
After a few minutes, the doorknob rattled. It was Terrones asking them to open the door.
“No! Don’t do it,” said the teachers inside the room.
They feared it could be a plot to get them to open the door and let the shooter in.
Terrones continued to beg to be let in, assuring them, yes, they had done a good job, but now the drill was over. They had set off the alarm, and it could only be turned off from their room.
No one budged. The door remained barricaded, teachers sat in the darkness behind overturned tables.
Terrones begged. And begged. And begged.
Eventually, teachers started to try to reach the administrators on their cellphones to see if the drill was, indeed, over.
Terrones looked relieved. Martin looked a little amused.
Janesville Police Sgt. Aaron Ellis, who oversees the school resource officers, was grinning. He was clearly pleased with the outcome.
“They did exactly want they were supposed to do,” Ellis said.