Enhancing teachers’ response to active threats

When you say the words “first responders” who comes to mind? Police, Fireman, EMT? But what about teachers? It is no longer adequate to place all of the responsibility for our children’s safety in the hands of our teachers during an attack and not take the time to properly train them to accomplish that task. Nor is it acceptable to simply tell them, "Lock your classroom door, turn out the lights, hide in a corner and pray that the attacker doesn’t pick your room."

Today, the nation’s law enforcement officers are better prepared to respond to an active shooter than ever before. Unfortunately, statistics show that many of these incidents are over before law enforcement can even get there to help. There is no doubt that today's teachers need to be instructed on how to increase the chances of survival for their students and themselves. Who better to train them then members of the law enforcement community.

How to Create a “Tactical Teacher”

Even with optimal conditions police generally can not arrive on scene before 7-10 minutes after a threat has been called in. Making it critical to enhance the tactical training of our teachers to reduce the possible number of deaths during an attack.

The suggestion is not to create “SWAT teachers”, but to train our educators to be “tactical teachers.” By going into the schools and providing our teachers with some simple tactical mindset training—such as "if/then" thinking and Boyd’s OODA loop theory (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act)—and a sampling of some basic defensive tactics they can use if a physical confrontation becomes necessary, we can enhance both their capabilities and chances of survival if an active deadly threat were to occur. This information could be disseminated in as little as a four-hour block of time that a solitary police instructor could conduct training for an entire school or school district during a single teachers in-service day.

What Should Be Taught?

One recommendation suggests having the law enforcement trainer(s) provide an “a la carte list” of potential training options and allow the school to pick and choose what training they feel is appropriate for them. Training can be basic lectures to defensive tactical certification programs.
Training should include all school district division (teachers, maintenance, transportation, food services, healthcare, etc.) as participants. Point of initiation for these types of attacks is varied and unpredictable, thus requiring all members of the educational team to be prepared.

Tabletop exercises can be done to asses the level of skill and readiness of a school. Custom training can then be designed based on the results. By exposing educators to active deadly threat training programs they gain valuable tactics and tools they may not have previously been exposed to. This can benefit the school, the students and the first response officers by increasing efficiency and building stronger lines of communication during an actual attack.

Law enforcement personnel are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of the communities they are sworn to protect. They are experts in responding to critical incidents and resolving them as safely and quickly as possible. When it comes to an active deadly threat incident occurring in a school, the teachers in that school truly are the first responders during those critical initial minutes of the attack. By allowing the law enforcement community to come in and share their tactical response techniques with educators we are helping to strengthen the level of protection teachers can provide our students if an active deadly threat were to occur.

For more information on this topic please read “Taking the Tactical Mindset to School” by Timothy Troxel