15 years after Columbine: 15 'big ideas' for stopping school massacres
“We need to make a stand right now that our schools need to be the most important thing we have in this country — not Wall Street, not Capitol Hill, our schools.” — Coach Frank Hall
Quick: What is ‘the one big idea’ you’ve had — or heard — which would significantly reduce the severity and frequency of active murderers in American schools? Got one? Good. Hold that thought.
It’s been exactly 15 months since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, and almost exactly 15 years since the massacre on Columbine high school. “Columbine changed everything” is a common refrain. From a police-response perspective a lot did change — no more would containment be an acceptable tactic while gunfire continued unabated inside that perimeter.
However, all the changes following Columbine — from TCCC to IARD training and tactics — were insufficient to keep those 20 little angels at Sandy Hook from being slaughtered. Even after the mass murder in Newtown, there were incidents in places like Pittsburg (Pa.), Sparks (Nev.), and Taft (Calif.). Clearly, we have room for improvement.
Five Solutions from PoliceOne Experts
This brings me to my opening question.
It was a trick question.
There is no one big idea.
There are myriad ideas from which we may build layers of solutions based on local needs. What follows are 15 thoughts I’ve had, heard, and/or written about. Add yours in the comments area below.
1.) The Five Phases of the Active Shooter
On the same day the Sandy Hook massacre happened in Newtown, another attack was prevented because students, parents, teachers, and police — whether or not they consciously knew it at the time — used the Five Phases to prevent 17-year-old Sammie Eaglebear Chavez from executing his plan to execute his classmates.
By way of reminder, those five phases are:
Dan’s concept of the Five Phases is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard on the topic of preventing school massacres — all active killers, actually — and I think the National Education Association should mandate that all educators be educated on the Five Phases.
2.) Modern Day Minutemen
Fairburn’s proposal includes retired coppers qualified for nationwide concealed carry under the federal Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (HR 218), military veterans who would be given specific training on legal use-of-force, and “the millions of U.S. citizens who have jumped through the legal hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit in their state.”
In his column on the topic, Fairburn wrote, “Virtually every mass killing in recent memory has occurred in a gun-free zone. We must authorize our Minutemen to carry everywhere, especially in gun-free zones.”
3.) OODA Loop for Public Safety
“One idea I just don’t hear people talking about is shortening the 911 process,” Alwes said.
“We talk a lot about the OODA Loop for the individual, but there’s also an OODA Loop for the public safety process. Somebody has to see something and recognize what it is. They have to call 911. The call taker has to process it, the dispatcher has to dispatch it, the officer has to go to the scene, and all that takes longer than what these situations tolerate.”
Perhaps when a PSAP receives multiple, simultaneous 911 calls from a predetermined, geo-fenced location such as a school or other “soft target” in a given jurisdiction the system could automatically generate an alert to all MDTs and LMR radios about “an unspecified event” underway at that location. There would have to be measures taken so that such a system isn’t abused but it might be nice to have that tool in the toolkit.
4.) Sirens on Sticks
Even if the assailant doesn’t commit suicide when those sirens start blaring, you’ve at least given them something else to think about and broken into their OODA Loop.
5.) The Cubicle of Life
Admittedly, this offers little more than simple concealment, but according to reports, first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig closed and locked the door to her classroom at Sandy Hook elementary, hiding her students out of sight of the door. Likely thinking that room was totally empty, the killer kept going, and those children survived the attack. If you want to learn more about this idea, simply send Stan and me an email.
Ten More Ideas for Consideration
6.) Placing air horns in fire extinguisher cases for teachers to sound an alert
Learning from the ‘Regular Guy’
Hall is the high school football coach and study hall teacher — and self-avowed “regular guy” — who chased a 17-year-old murderer from Chardon High School in February 2012.
During an interview with 60 Minutes, Coach Hall said, “We need to find ways to secure our schools better. We need to make a stand right now that our schools need to be the most important thing we have in this country — not Wall Street, not Capitol Hill, our schools. We need to determine that in our minds and hearts, that our schools and our children need to be the most important thing we have.”
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