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Cervantes: In school shootings, lockdowns don’t work

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | OCTOBER 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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All people have something that they are afraid of. For some the fear is spiders. For others, it is clowns. There are, however, certain nightmares that are almost universal in their audience. One such fear is the idea that a place, one in which safety is guaranteed, becomes a dangerous and life threatening area.

Sadly, as the recent events in Washington state have shown us, this fear can become a tragic reality.
This is not another piece that will cite bullying as the cause of a school shooting, nor will I blame violent video games and television. This is not another rendition of the blame game. Instead, this column will talk about procedure; what the administration is expected to do in a situation such as this and if it is truly the best way to ensure the safety of students.

According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the average number of mass shootings has tripled since 2008. This is a significant increase, given that from 2000-2008 the average was five per year. The fatality rate of such shootings ranges from one to 26. Obviously, the safety methods that are in place are insufficient.

In the past, the most common way that a school responded to any action that could lead to a fatality would be a lockdown. This has proved to be a problem. In a lockdown, administrators and teachers lock the doors, turn off the lights, and wait for rescue. Because a majority of shooters are students, they would be aware of the lockdown procedure. They know that students and faculty would not be evacuated but rather locked up in classrooms. This only makes the shooter’s task easier, because his or her targets are corralled into specific places.

If we look at the cases of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, the lockdown approach was used. This has led to too many horrific deaths, because the students and staff were trapped like cattle. If schools had used another practice, the number of casualties would be significantly less.

Jon Boles, a cofounder of the school shooter safety program “School Shepherds,” said, “Lying underneath your desk, hoping and praying that you don’t get shot that day is not enough.”
It is time for a change. In order to ensure the safety of students and faculty, a new procedure needs to be put in place.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now endorses “Active Shooter Preparedness ,” a practice adopted in which the staff members of the school “fight back” in a sense. And they aren’t the only ones. Several organizations have sprung to life over the recent years to educate schools on this active approach and how to perform it effectively.

Daniel Weirather, also a co-founder of School Shepherds, praises the active approach, saying, “The proactive approach is the most responsible approach. We need to give the teachers, principals, and every other staff member the ability to live through such a crisis.”

Whenever I see a school shooting on the news, my heart breaks. It exposes just how vulnerable we truly are in our own neighborhoods. From what I’ve heard and seen, this new active approach is just what is needed to protect the children and educators of this nation.

However, I hope my opinion isn’t tested anytime soon.


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