A New Kind of School Intruder Plan
A number of years ago, I was the Dean of Students at a small alternative high school in Minnesota. While I was not technically the principal, I performed most of the functions an actual principal would. I made sure that transportation, food service, maintenance and other administrative duties were taken care of. I meted out discipline as needed, and met with parents and community members as required. As such, one of my duties was to meet with the school safety coordinator once a year to go over the emergency plan if a school shooter was ever present.
On the scheduled date, the school safety coordinator came to my office so that we could go over the existing plan to see if any improvements could be made. When the safety coordinator walked in, I greeted him and asked him to sit down. After we exchanged pleasantries, he pulled out the existing plan, showed me a map of the school and explained how the plan was to be executed in the event of a shooter on site. I listened politely, nodded my head at the correct times, smiled, and let him give his presentation. The existing plan called for all students to sit on the floor against a wall. The teacher was to lock the classroom door and shut off all lights. No one was to talk or get up. Cell phones were to be silenced. The theory behind this approach was that a school shooter might think the classroom was vacant and not attempt to enter it. That was the theory that drove the existing plan. That is the theory that drives most plans. When he was finished, he asked if I had any suggestions.
I told him it sounded like a plan for everyone to sit down and wait their turn to get shot. He looked surprised. I told him that I didn’t see anything in the plan that made much sense. For one, all of the classroom doors had windows that the shooter could easily break and then walk in and shoot everyone in the room. If a person is capable of shooting other human beings, they are probably also capable of breaking the glass window on the door. If the shooter did that, the students would be sitting ducks, so to speak. A second problem with his plan was it had no place for people in the hallway to go. Students trapped in the hallway would be the shooter’s first targets. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
The safety coordinator then looked at me and asked if I had any ideas on how to improve the plan. I nodded and said that I had 2 ideas.
“Those in the front who took one for the team would die as volunteers, not as victims.”
I told him that one option would be to install windows that opened in all the classrooms. That way students and teachers could open the windows, climb out, and run for safety. The building in its current form had thick glass windows on the classrooms that did not open. Their purpose was to keep would-be thieves from breaking into the building. Those windows did make it difficult to break in. They also made it difficult to break out. At that suggestion, the safety coordinator told me it would be very expensive to replace all those windows, and that it would never be approved due to budgetary issues. He wasn’t kidding.
I told him I did have one other idea. Rather than sitting in the classrooms waiting to be shot like under the current plan, it would be more effective and would make more sense if the students rushed the shooter en masse. “Imagine,” I said, “what the shooter’s reaction might be if he saw 80 students running down the hallway directly AT him!!!” “He might drop his gun and run. Think about it.”
I had his interest.
I told him that if we charged him, we might lose a few, but in the end we would capture the shooter. He could not possibly get everyone. I also offered to appoint certain students to lead the charge, if you get my drift. My role would be to bring up the rear and make sure no one snuck up on us from behind. Those in the front who took one for the team would die as volunteers, not as victims. We could name scholarships after them and mount a plaque or two in memoriam.
When I was done, the safety coordinator smiled and said “you know, that really does make sense, but it would never fly with the school board. He was grinning. So was I.
He thought I was kidding.