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Expert explains active shooting training for teachers can be crucial to saving lives

Teacher Training Shootings
Posted at 4:49 PM, Oct 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-20 19:21:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To mark the start of the school year and a renewed focus on school safety, KSHB 41 I-Team's Caitlin Knute sat down with a group of students and recent graduates from across the Kansas City area, ranging in age from 12 to 23-years-old.

This is the fourth part of the series exploring student perspectives into a world of school shootings and active shooter drills.

One of the topics they discussed included how those drills made them feel, and what they felt was missing.

We took their comments and concerns to Mark Warren, the co-owner of Strategos, a company that trains teachers and school staff on how to respond in the event of an active shooter.

What we learned is that it's possible some parts of the lessons aren't being passed on to students.

And that's a lesson Warren says students can't afford to miss.

"I’ve studied these things for so many years that it becomes a part of you, and I see people dying for lack of knowledge," he said.

Warren says that's why it's so important to have a plan in place.

He explains when you first hear shots, you become startled or fearful.

Then, "normalcy bias" sets in, where you try to rationalize what you heard.

"The problem is that takes seven to 13 seconds to resolve that cognizant dissonance going on in my brain," Warren said. "Seven to 13 seconds of time wasted in my response."

Next, it's disbelief and then finally, he says despair and hopelessness can set in.

However, he says training can combat some of that.

But, local students and graduates we spoke to explained they're worried those same lessons are being passed on to potential active shooters.

"While the active shooter drills are supposed to be helpful, a lot of time we see that the shooters are people who have gone to those schools, who've been through the same drills," said Rachel a student KSHB 41 interviewed. "So, they know the procedures, they know where people are hiding."

When we shared her concern with Warren, he acknowledged potential shooters might have inside knowledge, but said the training can still throw a wrench in their plans.

"When someone responds from a trained response, it negates their plan," he said.

Warren points to Columbine as an example.

Although twelve students and one teacher were killed, he says the death toll could have been much higher considering the two shooters were in the school for forty-nine minutes.

He says taking the small steps survivors took that fateful day, such as barricading doors, prevented more lives from being lost.

"That created the separation that people needed because they needed time," he said. "They needed time for the responding officers to get in."

But what if students are not in a classroom when a shooter opens fire?

That was another concern we heard from our panelists.

"It only accounts for the situation of everyone's in their classroom and the shooter is going door to door," said Luciana, a college student KSHB 41 interviewed. "But, it doesn't account for lunch period, it doesn't account for recess, it doesn't account for if you're not in the classroom, if you're in the office or the bathroom."

Warren's response to her comment was that no matter where you are, even outside a school setting, there are steps to follow.

"We teach a nonlinear model called 'three outs,'" he said. "So, the 'out' word always stays the same, the action word in front of it changes based on where you are in relation to the threat."

Warren said specifically, in any active shooting situation, those "outs" are "Lock Out," meaning lock the door and barricade it with whatever you can find to prevent entry.

"Get Out," which means running from the threat; and finally, "Take Out," which means fighting back, something that that should be used as a last resort.

When asked if this was being fully explained to students, he acknowledged it's likely some teachers and school officials aren't sharing all of that with their pupils.

"Sometimes they are worried about are we teaching the next shooter, and so there’s a lot of times where they hold it close to the vest," Warren said. "And I think we need to be pushing some of this training more down to students."

But, is more instruction on this topic better?

Studies have shown mixed results, with some indicating these lessons can cause children more anxiety, something we also heard from our group of students.

"As you go into high school, and you start to understand the gravity of what that drill means and who it's referring to, it makes you feel less safe," said Nick, a local college student.

Warren said it's necessary to be prepared.

"The reality is we still have to plan for it, we still have to prepare for it," he said. "You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than die in an active shooter. You know, this is a very, very low probability, it’s not the frequency of the event that we are preparing for, it is the impact that it’s going to have if it happens."

And that's what he says this training is all about — minimizing damages and buying precious seconds to protect yourself till help can arrive.

One additional suggestion he shared for teachers — it really is best practice to teach with your doors closed and locked.

He also had a message for students to stop bullying, noting that kind of behavior can push troubled students over the edge.

And he says parents need to be proactive about encouraging kindness and empathy at home.

One study published in the Journal of Pediatric Care shows 60% of school shooters reported being bullied in-person or online.

Most of those attackers also said they were bullied by classmates, with roughly half of those experiencing persistent bullying over a period of time ranging from weeks to years.

Editor's note: KSHB 41 fact checked Warren's comment that you're more likely to be hit by lightning than to die in a school active shooter situation, and found the following support for his claim.

This article cites a study that shows your odds of dying in a mass shooting are 1 in 10 million.

Compare that to the odds of being struck by lightning, which the CDC says are 1 in 1 million.