As schools across the country review their lockdown procedures, more than 100 teachers and administrators in Alabama took crisis-management preparation a step further by participating in an active school-shooter training session in Jefferson County. During the Jan. 2 simulations, nearly a dozen administrators donned protective gear and played the role of law-enforcement officials while teachers tried to follow the standard safety procedures amid the sound of gunfire and heart-pounding adrenaline.
The purpose of these sessions, which involved paint pellets, wasn’t to train administrators in how to take down shooters, Jefferson County chief deputy Randy Christian said in an e-mail. “They were allowed to take on the role of law enforcement so they could understand the need to relay accurate and timely information to first responders.”
To help relay that information, Jason Wilson, principal of the Jefferson County school where the training session was held, urged attendees to keep a backpack in every classroom and stock it with a flash drive that contains overhead maps of the school (as well as hard copies), a first-aid kit, flashlight and paper and tape to cover windows. “Teachers don’t think tactically,” said Wilson, who is also a member of the Alabama Association of School Resource Officers. But after the shooter simulations, he said, they started talking about what else would be good to have in their backpacks or bailout bags, such as a blanket to help keep students calm.
The active-shooter training session, which has been offered to school administrators in Alabama for several years, was the first to incorporate large numbers of teachers, most of whom signed up to attend after the shootings in December in Newtown, Conn. Wilson said interest post-Newtown has been so high that he is already planning additional sessions.
He also said he hopes to find the funding, possibly through a grant, to give every school administrator in the county a bulletproof vest. He keeps his in his backpack.