Use of force and the violent student

By Gary T. Klugiewicz
Director of Training, PoliceOne Training Network
This paper will focus on the Use of Force and the Violent Student.  It will not attempt to answer all questions surrounding violence in our schools.  Rather it will pose questions about how we need to plan for, respond to, and recover from violence when it impacts our schools.  Probably even more importantly, it will expose the readers to networking opportunities to provide long term resources for the future.  For this reason, several articles and other material will be attached to this document that will direct the readers to law enforcement websites that may provide additional resources.   Please review this attached material and check out these websites at your leisure.
Additionally, I would like to expand the scope of the paper to include all sorts of violence directed towards our school staff and students, on and off the school grounds.  We need to expand our defensive thinking into a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan.  We need to think out of the box in terms of both the threats we are facing in and about our schools, the nature of the threats, and who is posing these threats to our staff and students.  
For instance, let’s look at the recent national headlines.  Yes, there are the unfortunately “normal” school shooters as recently took place in Tacoma, Washington where one student brought a gun into a school and killed a fellow student.  But, what about last week’s Houston, Texas area incident where a mentally ill person with a gun stalked a school bus filled with girl basketball players after a basket ball game?  Luckily, when the school bus driver threw her radio microphone at the assailant, she apparently distracted him because he didn’t open fire.  She was able to drive away and the assailant was apprehended.  We need to prepare for these types of incidents on and off the school grounds. 
We need to plan for all kinds of violence being directed at our students and staff.  Not all incidents of violence that occur on buses are intentional.  In Wisconsin, over the last several years, we have had a number of accidents involving buses that have resulted in injuries and deaths.  These tragic incidents also need to be considered in our planning.
The bottom line is that we have to deal with the violence directed towards our school staff and students, inside and outside the schools, whether it is intentional or unintentional.  We need to develop a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan for responding to violence.  This plan must include an understanding of our students, the threats, and what resources we have available to respond to these threats.  
Since this paper will focus primarily on the use of force, there are a couple of basic truths that will need to be defined.  Number One is “the only fight you can’t lose is the one that you don’t have.”  We want to avoid physical confrontation at all costs, which is why we place so much emphasis on our verbal skills and our ability to diffuse and/or avoid the confrontation.  There is no guarantee that we will be able to “win” a rapid unfolding, violent, and dangerous encounter that oftentimes involves weapons.  On the other hand, we must remember another important basic truth.  Basic truth Number Two is that we need to practice “WHEN/THAN Think.”  This term, developed by Bob “Coach” Lindsey, a retired colonel with the Jefferson Parish, LA Sheriff’s Office, explains that we need to think in terms of “when” something is going to happen, not “If.”  When one student refuses to stop physically bullying another student , when the fight breaks out between students, when a student in kidnapped, or when a mentally ill person starts shooting people in our schools, how are we going to respond.  These events will continue to happen.  Preplanning, efficient response, communications, and coordination are the keys.
The first issue that will be addressed is planning.  Before a plan can be developed and implemented, it is important to research the scope of problem.   
The educational system, as it exists, is an interesting and frankly unique phenomenon.  Dr. Bill Lewinski, a world-famous law enforcement psychologist and director of the Force Science Research Center ( probably says its best.  “It is rare in our culture to find an organization that is compelled to deal with so many different levels of potential violence. The school system is the prime agent of socialization in this country. It is the only social institution that must deal with all people regardless of their abilities, inabilities, social or mental health status. As such it finds that it must deal with all levels of violence that are brought to its doors by both students and employees.”  
You will notice that as Dr. Lewinski talks about the “the violence brought to our doors,” he references both students and employees.  
See attached Police Marksman Magazine “The Lethal Employee” Article – Attachment One.  
We need to start expanding our potential threat categories to include not only students, but employees, parents, visitors, the violently mentally ill, and the truly criminal elements of our society.
 Dr. Lewinski’s explanation of some of the possible threat categories, introduces what is referred to as the Defensive Tactics (D.T.) Training Variables to the crisis response planning process.  Over time, organizations that I have been associated with have developed defensive tactics programs for a wide range of police, corrections, military, mental health, hospital, and school environments. These variables have to be considered before formalizing a crisis response strategy.

The D.T. Training Variables:

    1. Threat – Who is going to have to be physically controlled?  In the case of the school environment, this will usually be a student but it could be an employee or outsider.


    2. Personnel – Who is going to respond to help control the situation?   This will usually be teachers and support personnel, school security staff, School Resource Officers, other first responding police officers, or even SWAT Teams.  Realize that even students can attempt to control the situation.

    3. Occupation – How is the responding person going to respond?  Very different responses are expected from a teacher, a police officer, a SWAT Team, etc.

    4. Environment – Where is the event taking place?  Different responses are needed for different locations depending if the incident takes place in a small office, a classroom, the gym, a playground, or on a bus.

    5. Rules of Engagement – How are the personnel responding trained to respond?  You will get very different responses depending if the incident is handled by school staff, by the police, or by a SWAT Team.  This needs to be considered when planning for and responding to a crisis situation.  A well thought out preplanned response is best.  

    6. Number of Support Staff Available – How many emergency response personnel can you get to the scene and how fast? The ability to get a significant number of trained personnel to the site of the emergency quickly can often diffuse the situation without having to resort to the use of physical force.  However, if enough trained staff members are on the scene and physical force is required, less intrusive physical intervention is usually possible.

    7. Weapons/Control Tools Available – What weapons/control tools are available/authorized for use?  Most institutional environments, whether it is a correctional institution, treatment center, or school, don’t usually have this equipment immediately readily available at the site of the emergency.  This equipment is usually brought in by special personnel.  In schools, this may be the School Resource Officer.  Remember that the ability to avoid a crisis situation in the first place, diffuse it if possible, or physically control it with team tactics prior to the arrival of this equipment, often reduces the need to utilize these more intrusive control measures.

    8. Who Evaluates Your Performance by What Standard? – Although this occurs after the incident is resolved, it is a significant element of your force response planning. The actions of a student, a teacher, security personnel, and a police officer will be judged by very different standards based on their training and experience.  

Once you have evaluated these Defensive Tactics Variables, there are some basic defensive tactics principles that apply universally to responding to disturbances. We will examine the First Responder Philosophy and the Disturbance Resolutions Model in developing a strategy for responding to use of force situation.  This material is part of the State of Wisconsin police and correctional training programs.  It has been modified for use in hospitals, juvenile treatments centers, and schools.  More information including training manuals and study guides can be found at .
See attached ACMi® DAAT Manual – Attachment Two for the complete manual
Responding to emergency situations should be dealt with in any school’s Emergency Preparedness Planning.  These emergencies include disturbance emergencies, medical emergencies, fire emergencies, and miscellaneous emergencies.  We need to develop procedures for dealing with all of them.  We respond to emergencies as First Responders who call in specialized response teams such as the Police and Fire Departments as needed.  But, until these professional emergency response personnel arrive on the scene, we are it – we are the First Responders. We need to plan for what and how are we going to deal with the emergency until help arrives.
Disturbance emergencies are one of the most complicated because they can combine several of the emergencies as in the example of a fight between students creating not only a disturbance but a medical emergency.  It could get even more complicated when dealing with a bombing that could result in a disturbance leading to a fire, leading to injuries, and power outages.  We need to develop a First Responder Philosophy to guide our response.  See chart below.

This time-tested emergency response procedure is designed for institutional environments, such as schools, hospital, and other large public complexes.  The first staff member “ARRIVES” on the scene, “ASSESSES” what type of emergency is apparently taking place and then immediately gives an “ALARM” to notify others of the problem and get other staff members coming.  Failure to communicate a problem to other staff as well as police and fire personnel is one of the greatest failures and dangers in emergency response because it slows down assistance arriving at the scene.
Once the alarm is given by whatever means is available (i.e., voice, phone,  panic alarm, etc.) then the first responder should “EVALUATE” to see if there are any hidden dangers/threats or if this emergency is a “set up” to draw staff away from some other problem.  Things aren’t always what they seem.  Was the medical emergency caused by a fight or is this argument designed to distract me from some other more serious problem?  This assessment time allows time to decide whether to “ENTER” the scene of the emergency or, if you are already in it, to decide to disengage.  Staff must realize that to jump into a fight between two full size, violently fighting students might seem the proper thing to do, but it can often lead to injury to you (creating another medical emergency) and not stop the fight.  Proper staff action is a balance of safety and efficiency.  Don’t sacrifice the safety of you or your students for efficiency.  Sometimes you can only be a good witness, until more staff or the police arrive on the scene.
After the staff member(s) decide to enter, they must attempt to “STABILIZE” the scene.  This stabilization includes stabilizing the subject(s) involved and the scene itself.  This is a crucial mistake often made by well meaning staff who fail to understand that the people surrounding a fight can be more dangerous than the people fighting.  Both the subject(s) and the scene must be stabilized in order to make the disturbance scene secure. 
Once the subject and the scene are stabilized, the First Responder Philosophy moves to “INITIAL MEDICAL ASSESSMENT” that directs how first aid should be given and whether Emergency Medical Services (EMS) should be called to the scene.  Here again, a caution: don’t begin providing first aid to a person at the scene until it is safe to do so.  Remember, the subject(s) and the scene must be stabilized before moving to this step.  Don’t be giving first aid while the fight is still on.  This doesn’t mean that EMS can’t be called once you have determined that professional medical response is going to be needed.  The “LONG TERM MONITORING” refers to what kind of long term care is needed for the subject that you are dealing with in terms of medical transport, psychiatric care, police custody, etc.  This may also include the decision that school security concerns may require alternative educational services for the student.
“COMMUNICATION” is a major component of emergency response and includes communicating with the people involved, other persons present, other staff members, the schools, control center, responding staff, police and fire personnel, and your supervisors during and after the emergency.
“DOCUMENTATION / DEBRIEFING” refers to incident documentation and debriefing, which should follow every emergency response.  It is recommended that the First Responder Philosophy be used as a template for both report writing and incident debriefing (review).  Remember that in our society liability is a major concern, both criminally and civilly.  Documentation of your emergency response is extremely important to your employer and to you, as an individual.  Debriefing is equally important to “improve your and your school’s performance in the future.
Since disturbance emergencies provide special safety and legal concerns, they are dealt with according to a special Disturbance Resolution Model.  This model was initially developed as part of the Calibre Press “Street Survival Seminar” and later revised by the State of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board.  See Disturbance Resolution Model below.
The important learning point to take away from this model is that a disturbance is made up of a beginning (Approach Considerations), a middle (Intervention Options), and an end (Follow Through Considerations)—your decision making, how you tactically deploy, and how your tactical evaluation of the threat you are facing will impact your physical and legal safety.  Whether you intervene and how you intervene will be dependent on your role, training, and experience.  Your follow through after the incident will be very important in terms of showing “due care” for the persons involved.  Don’t relax too early and end up getting injured or in legal difficultly because you didn’t properly provide for a person in your care. 

    A.  Decision-making  Justification
    B.  Tactical Deployment Control of distance
         Team Tactics
    C.  Tactical Evaluation Threat assessment opportunities
         Officer/subject factors
           Special circumstances
         Level/stage/degree of stabilization



    Presence                             To present a visible of display of authority

    Dialog                                  To verbally persuade
    Control Alternatives              To overcome passive resistance, active resistance, or its  threat
    Protective Alternatives           To overcome continued resistance, assaultive behavior, or its threat
    Deadly Force                        To Stop the Threat

    A.  Stabilize                             Application of restraints, if necessary
    B.  Monitor/Debrief
    C.  Search                               If appropriate
    D.  Escort                               If necessary
    E.  Transport                           If necessary
    F.  Turn-over/Release             Removal of restraints, if necessary

School staff responding to disturbances will really have only two force responses readily available to them—their verbal skills and what we refer to as Empty Hand Control.  The control tools and weapons will usually be brought to the scene by the School Resource Officers, the first responding police officers, or later by tactical teams.
For the purpose of our discussion, we are going to discuss these first two intervention options that are normally available to school staff in responding to disturbance emergencies.  We will discuss the verbal skills that we refer to as Tactical Communication and some less intrusive physical interventions tactics that we refer to as the STAR Tactic.  The police responses used by responding police and tactical teams will be referenced in several attached articles.
Tactical Communications
Defensive Tactics have been described as a system of verbalization skills coupled with physical skills.  The use of these verbal skills to prevent a physical confrontation from occurring, to de-escalate a physical altercation, or to calm a scene after an incident help to keep our school safe and justify any force response required.
The verbalization skills training program that I recommend is the Tactical Communication program that was developed by George J. Thompson, Ph.D. of the Verbal Judo Institute.  His program was initially developed for training police officers but has been expanded over the years to instruct correctional, military, security, and treatment personnel, as well as teachers.  What makes his program unique is the manner in which it is taught.  Before you are instructed in the basic tactics, time is spent developing important concepts like professionalism and the need for ethical interventions in dealing with your fellow staff members.  Time is spent in what is referred to as Tactical Communication Theory that instructs participants in how to communicate better.  Participants are trained how to listen better through the use of the L.E.A.P.S Concept that is described below.
"Active Listening" Concept -- the L.E.A.P.S. Acronym
(1). Listen.
(2). Empathize.
(3). Ask.
(4). Paraphrase.
(5). Summarize.
 Before advancing to the actual verbal tactics, time is spent explaining the time that words alone fail and knowing when it is time to move on.   Although most situations can be resolved using verbal tactics, there are always the exceptions.  When the S.A.F.E.R. Concept is violated, action needs to be taken.  But, this action doesn’t always entail moving in, which often escalates the situation.  Other action may be disengaging from the scene or locking down an area.  The S.A.F.E.R Concept is described below. 
S.A.F.E.R. Concept – Moving beyond words:  The five conditions when words fail:
(1). Security.
(2). Attack.
(3). Flight.
(4). Excessive Repetition.
(5). Revised Priorities.
Armed with a new sense of Professionalism, Tactical Communication Theory, and the S.A.F.E.R. Concept, the participant is ready to begin training in how to make the best possible initial contacts.  This Tactical 8-Step Pattern will provide the participants with an efficient communication tool for making initial contacts with all the people that they come in contact.  
The Tactical 8-Step Pattern -- a generic plan of action for how to make "official" contact with any subject. 
(1). Appropriate Greeting.
(2). Identify yourself / Department or School Function
(3). Explain reason for the contact.
(4). Any justifiable reason for ...
(5). Ask for identification.
(6). Request additional information.
(7). Decision stage.
(8). Appropriate close.

Since not all persons that you come in contact with in your official capacity will cooperate with what you ask them to do, the "Tactical 5-Step Pattern was developed.  When you encounter verbal resistance, you immediately transition into the Tactical 5-Step Pattern.  Again, most people will eventually go with the program.  If not, you have just established a S.A.F.E.R Violation through Excessive Repetition that justifies taking action.  The Tactical 5-Step Pattern is described below.
The Tactical 5-Step Pattern -- a generic plan of action for how to deal with initial resistance from the "difficult" people we are required to deal with. 
(1). Ask.
(2). Set context.
(3). Present options.
(4). Confirm non-compliance.
(5). Act ----- disengage and/or escalate.
 This Tactical Communication training has proven extremely successful in raising staff member’s professionalism and communication skills. This is turn has lead to a safer institutional environment, fewer incidents, and fewer complaints.
For additional information about Dr. Thompson and the Tactical Communication Program, see the attached articles or check out his website at .
See attached ASLET TRAINER “Verbal Judo Revised” Article – Attachment Three
See attached LAW OFFICER Magazine “Combat Verbalization” Article – Attachment Four
See attached Website “Dr. George Thompson Columns – Attachment Five  
Physical Intervention
Physical intervention should be viewed as a last resort, especially in the school environment.  However, physical intervention may be necessary due to school policy or personal safety concerns.  Individual interventions are always dangerous.  Team tactics are the best way to stabilize potentially violent, out-of-control individuals.  Should physical intervention become necessary, The STAR Tactic has proven very effective in physically restraining individuals safely while preventing injuries to staff.  The Star Tactic was initially developed for the correctional environment but was quickly modified for use in mental health, treatment, and the hospital setting.  It is easy to learn and effective when dealing with subjects who may be larger that the individual staff members who respond to the incident.
The tactic is named the STAR Tactic because five staff members surround the subject who needs to be physically stabilized like the 5 points of a star.  Although this does require 5 staff members, it is much less intrusive that other physical intervention tactics because the 5 staff members are able to control the subjects arms, legs, and head while lowering the subject to the ground.  This prevents the subject from striking out at the staff members while allowing the staff members to slowly lower the subject to the ground.  See chart below.

There exists a tactic for five (5) staff members to stabilize a standing subject and actually taking him/her up initially instead of down to the ground.  This tactic is referred to as the Star Tactic. It consists of first stabilizing the arms, then the feet, and finally the head.  Once Staff Safety Considerations necessitate immediate physical intervention or verbal negotiations have proven ineffective and it is time to "Confirmed Non-compliance", The lead staff member, Number 5, orders the subject to follow some verbal order.  The order is repeated again with a final exclamation of "NOW."  On the command, "NOW", the lead staff member immediately verbalizes, "SECURE" and staff member Number 1 & 2 secure the arms close to the subject's armpits.  The lead staff member then verbalizes, "LEVITATE" and staff member Number 3 & 4 secures the legs and lifts them up so that the subject's body is parallel to the ground.  The lead officer then verbalizes, "LOWER" after s/he moves in from the front to stabilize the subject's head using a frontal application of "Secure the Head" Technique.  The staff members in unison slowly lower the subject to the ground.  Once on the ground, the lead officer verbalizes, "STABILIZE" and the subject is stabilized on the ground.  The lead staff member then begins "Monitoring/Debriefing Procedures.   For more information about the STAR Tactic, see the attached article
See attached ASLET TRAINER Magazine “STAR TACTIC” Article - Attachment Six
Police Response and Tactical Response
 Once the School Resource Officer(s), the first responding police officers, or the tactical team arrives on the scene, the incident becomes a police matter.  Prior discussions with your local police agencies are important to clearly delineate school personnel and police roles, responsibility, and authority.  It is normal procedure that once the police arrive on the scene that they take over control of the scene.  The arrival of police officers on the scene usually also bring control devices and weapons, such as handcuffs, O.C. Aerosol Spray, Electronic Control Devices, Batons, and Firearms.  Although the introduction of School Resource Officers now place police officers in the schools, normal police are only called for serious incidents that threaten staff and student safety.  For more information, about police response to school violence, see attached articles or check out the  School Security Section that is currently featuring a special three-part series written by Chuck Remsberg on “4 D’s” for Thwarting Terrorist Plans to Massacre our School Children.  The Street Survival Newsline  also has numerous articles on the School Violence.
See attached POLICE MARKSMAN Magazine’s School Shooting’s Section – Attachment Seven 
Recovery begins with the stabilization of the initial situation, the initial debriefing, critical incident debriefing, formal review, and additional training in lessons learned. Our discussions are going to focus on the importance of using the debriefing process to make use of the “Lessoned Learned” from each incident.
The importance of learning lessons from these critical incidents can’t be stressed enough.  For instance, Captain Gary McNamara of the Fairfield, Connecticut, Police Department was involved in such an incident.  He explains that his department responded to multiple students being held hostage a local university by a former student claiming to have a bomb.
The incident took place on February 12, 2002.  A student entered a classroom on the campus of Fairfield University located in Fairfield, Connecticut, claiming to have a bomb.  He took 27 students and a professor hostage in a classroom.  The incident lasted over seven hours, but eventually he did release the hostages over the time and then surrendered.  It was later learned that he was a former student and he had been on campus for a month scoping out the location before he did it.
One of the other lessons learned was that after reviewing the calls not only to the university but also to our 911 center.  Parents were obviously calling, and with approximately 5000 students enrolled at the campus both full and part time you can imagine the number of calls that were made.  One of the things that he realized was that parents were taken by surprise that an incident could happen involving their child's school.  It was almost like they were spectator parents© because they were only spectators at the incident.  They had never thought an incident could happen at their child’s school and never did anything to prepare for it.  Captain McNamara created three steps that he now includes in training to parents in a training programs entitled "How not to be and why you shouldn't be a spectator parent©”. 
Captain MacNamara explains that parents must discuss with administrators the following three things you as parents need to know about the school your child attends:
1. Do they have plans and procedures in place to protect the children?  
2. How are they going to notify parents of an incident?   
3. How can parents be reunited with their children should an incident happen?  
 Knowing this prior to an incident will help you prepare should an incident happen and help avoid a rush to the scene by parents seeking information and reunification. You have to be involved so that you may be better prepared to handle an incident, or may even prevent one.  On a related matter, Captain MacNamara is working with Enforcement Technology Group, Inc., an internationally known law enforcement electronic technology development corporation to develop a communication systems for notifying parents of crisis situations, providing situational updates, and providing logistical briefings on where and how to be reunited with their children.
See attached The JUSTICE JOURNAL “Knowing How to Prepare for School Emergencies” Article - Attachment Eight for the complete article
 Keeping our school safe from violence is the right thing to do.  It is the moral thing to do.  It is our legal responsibility to plan for and respond effectively to these violent encounters in and around our schools.
 In conducting defensive tactics training, a riddle is often used that states, what is the only difference between a “tragedy” and “negligence?”  The answer often surprises the student.  The answer is repetition.  The first time something bad happens – it can be considered a “tragedy” because how could anyone know that this terrible thing could happen.  But once the event happens several times, the question becomes how could you have not know that the event was going to happen AGAIN. It now becomes “negligence.”  This is exactly what has happened in our schools.  Plaintiff’s attorneys love to say that you “knew” or “should have known” that this was going to happen again.  We need to be ready for NEXT time.  The difference between a tragedy and negligence is repetition. 
 Equally, as important, we must provide for the psychological and medical care of the students and staff involved while learning from these harsh lessons.  We can then better educate our staff, our public safety personnel, our parents, and our students while “training” for the next event.
 John Meyer, the president of Team One Network, an international tactical training company, explains the difference between Education and Training.  He does so because most people don’t get it.  Here is his example.  You as a parent have a twelve year old daughter in middle school.  Do you want her to get Sex Education or Sex Training?  After the strained laughter subsides, the students in his classes finally understand the real difference between education and training. Education involves the transfer of information while training involves physically practicing the skills.  On a different topic, do we want to have our staff “educated” about the violence in our schools or do we want them “trained” how to deal with it.  Our teachers and support staff, our police and other public safety personnel, our students and their parents need to be “trained” in how to respond to the violence in our schools.  We need to be physically practicing our emergency response procedures. Only then will we be ready for next incident when we have to confront violence in our schools.
Appendix One  Police Marksman Magazine – ‘The Lethal Employee” Article
Appendix Two ACMi® DAAT Manual
Appendix Three ASLET TRAINER Magazine – “Verbal Judo Revised” Article 
Appendix Four LAW OFFICER Magazine – “Combat Verbalization” Article
Appendix Five Website – Dr. George Thompson Columns
Appendix Six   ASLET TRAINER Magazine – “STAR TACTIC” Article  
Appendix Seven  POLICE MARKSMAN Magazine – School Shooting’s Section
Appendix Eight The JUSTICE JOURNAL – “Knowing How to Prepare for School Emergencies” Article
Listed below are several law enforcement websites that contain information about the topic of School Violence.  They all have search functions and have numerous archived articles for review.

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