THE MAGAZINE

The Best Defense

By Laura Spadantua

If the shooter comes at lunchtime, evacuation may also be the best option for those teachers and students in the cafeteria, because there are typically multiple exits in that area, and it’s an open space where it might be harder to find cover from the shooter, says Klinger.

If the teachers are in upper-floor classrooms, however, the only exits will be into hallways, which could be a more dangerous choice if they don’t know where the shooter is; so instead, their best option might be to barricade the room until they get a better sense of the situation.

Fight/Counter. Most people agree that evacuating when possible and barricading when stuck in a room are the right approaches, but there are many dissenters from the idea of fighting back in an environment that involves K-12 students. Trump thinks the ALICE approach, particularly the “counter” portion, is preying on the heightened post-Newtown emotions and isn’t the best way to prepare for a potential active shooter. “You’re asking a kid to take a 20-minute or 40-minute workshop or assembly, and then implement something that people in the public-safety community armchair quarterback every time they have an encounter with someone,” Trump says. Trump notes that the approach doesn’t take various age levels, development stages, and special needs into consideration. He adds that it could open students up to further injury, such as if the shooter has explosives or was only going to commit suicide rather than hurt others.

Moreover, schools that encourage students to attack may be opening themselves to additional legal liability. “One kid stands up and runs to attack the armed gunman and gets shot and killed, somebody’s going to be held accountable. There’s going to be tough questions. What were your policies and procedures? Was this run by your school attorney and approved? Did your school insurance carrier consider this and review this and give you the go-ahead?” Trump states.

Timm agrees that teaching students to fight back might not be the best approach, particularly if the students are in schools where the doors can be locked and the students might be safe in traditional lockdown. “From a liability standpoint, I probably don’t want the kids fighting anybody,” he says. And while he wouldn’t want kids to just be sitting ducks if the shooter gets into the safe room, he worries that if kids are told fighting is an option, they won’t understand that it should only be a last resort. “I just get nervous that whether the kid is 8 or 12 or…even 15, he might have a little cowboy in him and think, ‘I’m going to get that guy. I’m going to sprout a cape and get that guy.’ And maybe even leave the confines of the safe room to do it. I just think it’s not a good idea,” Timm says.

 

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