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October 6, 2013

CEPEDA: Training teachers to fight back

Every once in a while, horrifying violence rocks our national sense of school campus innocence. It’s cold comfort, but chances are our local school’s staff has been trained to respond in the most effective manner should the unimaginable occur.

As an observer of education trends, I take this for granted. But to people who don’t understand the level of preparedness that schools now practice, proposed laws protecting the teachers and staff who have to execute emergency protocols can be alarming and confusing.

Last week a reader sent me an article about an Indiana proposal to expand the “castle doctrine” law — aka, that state’s “stand your ground” law — to school grounds in order to protect any person who might resort to deadly force in order to prevent a school massacre.

She snapped at me when I suggested that such a topic at least merited a level-headed conversation.

We are 14 years since Columbine, the deadliest high school shooting in history. Whatever guidance or training you imagine today’s school personnel get to deal with emergency lockdown situations, multiply it by 10.

Three years ago the staff of a suburban high school district northwest of Chicago used a day when the students were not in attendance to stage a fully immersive emergency drill focusing on mass casualties.

In concert with the local police department, some role-played educators while others acted as fleeing, bleeding or merely hysterical victims swarmed by emergency response personnel in a mock worst-case scenario.

Fast forward to this past August, only a few months removed from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.

On an “in-service” day for teachers to get much-needed “professional development,” this same school — located in a town ranked at the middle of a list of the “Top 100 Safest Cities in the U.S.” — taught its teachers and staff how to take down an armed intruder.

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