A Texas school district is training children not to hide under the desks if a gunman comes into the room. Instead they are being taught to fight back. This is believed to be a first nationwide.
BURLESON, Texas (AP) — Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they got – books, pencils, legs and arms.
"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
That kind of fight-back advice is all but unheard of among schools, and some fear it will get children killed.
But school officials in Burleson said they are drawing on the lessons learned from a string of disasters such as Columbine in 1999 and the Amish schoolhouse attack in Pennsylvania last week.
The school system in this working-class suburb of about 26,000 is believed to be the first in the nation to train all its teachers and students to fight back, Browne said.
At Burleson – which has 10 schools and about 8,500 students – the training covers various emergencies, such as tornadoes, fires and situations where first aid is required. Among the lessons: Use a belt as a sling for broken bones, and shoelaces make good tourniquets.
Students are also instructed not to comply with a gunman's orders, and to take him down.
Browne recommends students and teachers "react immediately to the sight of a gun by picking up anything and everything and throwing it at the head and body of the attacker and making as much noise as possible. Go toward him as fast as we can and bring them down."
Just as advice has changed on what to do on an airplane if a hijacking is attempted, the rules are changing for schools. Not everyone is happy with this training – although the complaints are not coming from parents of the children in the school:
Hilda Quiroz of the National School Safety Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in California, said she knows of no other school system in the country that is offering fight-back training, and found the strategy at Burleson troubling.
"If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who's to blame," she said. "How much common sense will a student have in a time of panic?"
Terry Grisham, spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department, said he, too, had concerns, though he had not seen details of the program.
"You're telling kids to do what a tactical officer is trained to do, and they have a lot of guns and ballistic shields," he said. "If my school was teaching that, I'd be upset, frankly."
At worst, this gives the kids some sort of option other than lying there and waiting to be shot. Is it a good thing? No, it's a sad thing that we have come to this. But the problem is not America's alone. It is happening all over the world.
UPDATE: Joanne Jacobs, who is my blogmother incidentally, says she suspects kids will be less scared of the situation should it arise. They will know there is something they can do. See also Dr. Helen.