Sunday, October 4, 2015

Emergency Protocols: In Case of Active Shooter in the Classroom


Here's an open letter penned by Melissa Duclos, a part-time community college instructor in Oregon:
Thursday, October 1 was my second day of class as a writing instructor at a community college in Oregon.
Following the shooting that occurred at Umpqua Community College on Thursday, where 10 people were killed, I realized that as a new hire, I hadn’t been fully informed on my college’s emergency protocols. What should I do in the event of what we now call, with heartbreaking regularity, an active shooter situation? According to my school’s Emergency Response Guide, I should attempt to evacuate my students if it is deemed safe to do so. My classroom is on the third floor; to evacuate we would need to descend two flights down an open staircase, and exit through a wide lobby. We would need to know with absolute certainty that the active shooter was not on the third floor, or the second, or anywhere in the lobby. In other words, evacuation, my first course of action, seems highly unlikely.
The next option, according to my college, is to lock the door. This unfortunately is not possible, as the door to my classroom can only be locked with a key, a key that I do not have and won’t ever be given. Left, then, in my third-floor classroom with its unlocked door, I am instructed to turn off the lights and lower the blinds, to use the tables to build a barricade, and get everyone out of the line of fire. I am further instructed to “arm [myself] with classroom items (e.g., stapler, chair, fire extinguisher) to fight back with in the event that the shooter attempts to enter [my] room.”
In the next paragraph, I am told what to do if that shooter does in fact enter our classroom: “There is no one procedure that can be recommended in this situation,” the manual informs me with grim honesty, before adding, “[i]f you must fight, fight to win and survive.”
Fight to survive. I am a teacher, with a master’s degree in creative writing, and this is part of my job.
These security measures — generic, unfollowable, completely incompatible with the reality of my school — are, in their inadequate way, essential. It is not the school’s fault that heavily armed people, whether through incurable rage or mental instability, all too frequently choose academic institutions as the settings for the horror they unleash. I recognize that we do not have the resources to retrofit our facilities with safer features. I am positive that handing me — or any teacher — a gun will solve nothing. Regardless of the level of preparedness, though, it is clear that schools and teachers are being asked to do a job that they are not meant to do.
My son will start kindergarten next year. At 5 years old he and his classmates, in addition to learning reading and math, will be walked through lockdown drills by a teacher who will likely be hiding an immense terror as she has students practice finding a cozy place to hide and times how long they can remain quiet. It will probably seem like a game to him at first, but eventually my son and the rest of America’s schoolchildren who are learning the same lessons will ask why. Why have we allowed our schools to become a place where children must hide, and teachers must fight to survive?
What do you recommend I tell him? This week, when I speak to my students about what happened at Umpqua and about our own emergency procedures, what do you advise I say after I explain that the stapler and whiteboard markers — the only classroom supplies I have in my room — are critical to our survival?
I could tell them that your thoughts and prayers are with us. I could tell them we have your deepest sympathies. But I am teaching a class on argument, instructing my students on the importance of facts. So instead I will tell them the truth: They have to be prepared to hide out of the line of fire, and to fight for our survival, because you, our lawmakers, haven’t done your jobs. I will tell them that their rights, my rights, the rights of my 5-year-old, to attend school without fear of facing senseless slaughter by machine-gun fire, are not important to you, that we must be prepared to fight tooth and nail, stapler and whiteboard marker, because you refuse to fight the gun lobby in this country.
The next time you have an opportunity to sponsor or vote on common-sense gun legislation, instead of fearing the attack ads the gun lobby will undoubtedly launch against you, the lost campaign revenue, or the threat to your job, I hope that you think of me and my students, of the rest of the educators and students across the country, who have been asked to stand up to gunmen because you are too scared to stand up to a handful of lobbyists.

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Stop by the A-quad today and visit the memorial  we will set up.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've already published a comment about an earlier post on this subject. And in it, I mentioned the need for IVC, Saddleback, and the District, to take the necessary steps to train faculty and staff ( and by that I mean recurrent, mandatory training for ALL) and to implement guidelines, procedures, reliable systems that WILL WORK in the unfortunate event something like this happens. I know district and college administrators regularly read DTB. This is one case where they need to read and ACT.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. But we also need take action BEFORE a tragedy occurs. There's an institutional reluctance to confront issues before they happen that is very dangerous. It is as if they are more afraid of complaints and perhaps lawsuits than they are of injury and death.

Anonymous said...

Most people at IVC have no idea what, if any, emergency plans the college may have. The place is horrendously mis-managed and under-informed. Simply asking a question seems to often cause either a slap-back of some sort or further dragging of feet to respond, (at a college where foot dragging is the daily "lack of life blood-sludge").

President Glenn "Raghu II" Roquemore seems to allow the place to be mis-managed on a daily basis, lead by his apparently gleefully hammering VPI, and by the dapper Chief of Police (that master of meeting running and information, ..., not) and the apparent Aristocratic Empress of Public Information. The seven members of the Board of Trustees are the ultimate blame for the managerial debacle at IVC.

Anonymous said...

While I am critical of the college, 10:38, I don't think it's as bad as you suggest. I do think there is a problem with having info sessions on security be optional and/or held at times when many cannot attend. I do think there is a serious problem with the college president's willful isolation and the public insistence on everything being hunky-dory. Yes, BIG problems with how the college handles students who are obviously mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

I have no issue with your disagreement with me 12:44, although I think things are worse than many realize or wish to acknowledge or wish to hear. Either way, IVC is not coming anywhere near close to what it could be and I do blame that squarely on the leadership. We have wonderful students, they deserve more than what we are able to give them. Especially in a district sitting on over $100,000,000.00 in reserves and basic aide dollars. I wonder how the the public would react to this miserliness should they ever pay close enough attention.

I also believe the upcoming accreditation will be a well-managed political whitewash for, amongst other reasons, that apparently Glenn "Raghu II" Roquemore still fancies himself as a serous contender to replace Chancellor Gary "the meak and lazy" Poertner upon his final retirement.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read the emergency papers that are posted near the doorway of every office and classroom?

Anonymous said...

Yes, long ago. They curl up slightly and are covered with a thin film of dust. I do not believe they have an active shooter protocol in them but I will check today. Why?

Anonymous said...

I looked at the emergency paper hung in my classroom. There is NOTHING about an active shooter, only Bomb Threat. Can I say that aging papers hung in a classroom are not the best way to handle emergency situations? Yes. I can say that.

Half-staff: ten days and counting.

The flags outside A-100 has been flying at half-staff for ten days now. Even the one of the regular Jehovah's Witness women noticed i...