‘Active shooter’ response training to WCDS; Rappahannock schools begin in August

Behavioral profiling, classroom lockdown, and confronting shooters on summer agendas

Public and private schools in Rappahannock County will undergo “active shooter” training for teachers and staff, with the first session starting tomorrow [Friday, June 23] at Wakefield Country Day School (WCDS) in Flint Hill.

Rappahannock County Public Schools will undergo similar training in August.

In addition, we’re told that both students and parents of Rappahannock County Public Schools — high school and elementary — will be offered their own individual training through Sandy Hook Promise, which was founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of December 2012.

Jessica Andrus Lindstrom, Head of School at WCDS, tells the Rappahannock News that the active-shooter training at her school tomorrow will include other local independent school administrators and be “focused specifically on emergency response for schools in the event of violence and/or active shooter threats.”

Speakers, materials and training at WCDS will be provided to the region’s independent school officials by security consultant Dynamis, Inc., says Lindstrom, “in the hopes that by working together with other school administrators we will set a proactive approach to the prevention of school violence.”

Tomorrow’s day-long agenda, obtained by this newspaper, begins with a history of school violence, past and present, including contextual case studies; indicators of violence, including behavioral profiling based on several school violence incidents and the Ft. Hood attack; and how to plan, prepare, and respond to a school violence incident, blending viewpoints from both teachers and principals/administrators.

In the afternoon session at WCDS, there will be training that hopefully will never be utilized in any Rappahannock schools, concentrating on “Victim vs. Survivor” — basic medical care, assessment, triage, and emergency care.

Responding to a question about the ever-present threat to school communities in this day and age, Lindstrom states: “While yes, I agree . . . that no one is really ever immune from such unforeseen calamity, there is one difference that exists between the independent school and the larger public school, I believe.

“In the small environment, teachers and administrators know all of their students more personally and watch for erratic or antisocial behavior. It is not unusual for an independent school to remove from the community a student whom it believes may be a threat to himself or to others before something tragic happens.

“Such ‘removal’ entails working with the family of the child individually in order to get counseling or other medical support for the child. Sadly, one often hears after a tragedy occurs on a college or school campus that teachers or classmates acknowledge that they noticed before the killer struck that he had been depressed, angry, threatening in tone or non-responsive when in discussion,” Lindstrom continues.

“I think learning to recognize ‘cries for help’ so that intervention can happen before a tragedy occurs is what we all need to learn and, perhaps, small independent schools have had a better understanding of up until now. But again I reiterate and understand that no one is immune from such random acts of violence that seem to proliferate today.”

Meanwhile, “active shooter response training” will take place starting in August at Rappahannock County Public Schools, provided through the ALICE program. ALICE is actually acronym: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

Alert is the first notification of danger, when one initially becomes aware of a threat, such as occurred at Rappahannock County High School this past winter when one student alerted officials that two fellow students were allegedly threatening on repeated occasions to shoot up the school on the 2017 anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

“Alert is overcoming denial, recognizing the signs of danger and receiving notifications about the danger from others. Alerts should be accepted, taken seriously, and should help you make survival decisions based on your circumstances,” ALICE states, in effect confirming that the process that took place at Rappahannock — when the school system immediately notified the sheriff’s office of the threat — was the correct one to take.

As a result, a 17-year-old Rappahannock student was arrested and remains in custody following his trial at the Rappahannock County Courthouse last week.

Under the Lockdown step, Rappahannock elementary and high school teachers will learn how to barricade a room, prepare to evacuate and “counter the shooter” if needed.

“Our training explains scenarios where lockdown may be the preferable option and dispels myths about passive, traditional ‘lockdown only’ procedures that create readily identifiable targets and makes a shooter’s mission easier,” the training program states.

Rappahannock teachers will be instructed “on practical techniques for how to better barricade a room, what to do with mobile and electronic devices, how and when to communicate with police, and how to use your time in lockdown to prepare to use other strategies (i.e. Counter or Evacuate) that might come into play should the active shooter gain entry.”

In addition, it will be instilled in staff that “armed intruder situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly, which means that ongoing, real time information is key to making effective survival decisions.”

Both of the public schools, located between Washington and Sperryville, will be advised that an emergency response plan should have clear methods outlined, including for informing first responders of the location of a violent intruder.

The last-resort Counter portion of the training involves “actively confronting a violent intruder [as] the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved. Counter is a strategy of last resort. Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately. Creating a dynamic environment decreases the shooter’s chance of hitting a target and can provide the precious seconds needed in order to evacuate.”

ALICE to date has trained 3,700 K-12 schools in all 50 states.

As for the Sandy Hook program for parents and students who attend Rappahannock public schools, the training will focus in part on the warning signs of a potential active shooter.

“People who are at risk of hurting themselves or others often show signs and signals before an act of violence takes place,” Sandy Hook teaches. “When you don’t know what to look for, it can be easy to miss signs, or dismiss them as unimportant, sometimes with tragic consequences.

“It’s important to know that one warning sign on its own does not mean a person is planning an act of violence. But when many connected or cumulative signs are observed over a period of time, it could mean that the person is heading down a pathway towards violence or self-harm.”

Sandy Hook says its training will teach parents to know these signs, giving them the power to intervene and get help for any child, and perhaps ultimately saving one or more lives.

About John McCaslin 469 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.