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Counting the Heartbeats for School Safety

February 28, 2018

We can learn a lot from simple models of school safety. We know what to do to improve. We know many things that will protect our students. We’re already doing some of them, but sometimes these precautions fail. Armed teachers are a last resort, and they are essential. Follow me step by step.

Yes, we hope that social workers repair broken families. That makes our communities safer. We know that children from intact families are less violent. We can start there.

We know that people with mental illness are less violent when they are treated. Sometimes that isn’t enough. We hope that psychologists help heal broken minds. We hope that psychiatrists can prescribe a cure for mental illness.  We hope that school administrators, the police and the courts do their jobs to identify troubled individuals and keep us safe. Of course we want those things.

We don’t always get everything we want. People and institutions will fail. The only question is how much and how often.

What will we do when people fail and a killer targets our school?

When someone attacks a school, it can take almost an hour for EMTs to arrive and treat the injured. That is why the first thing we did is ask school staff to learn first aid. Trained adults can stop the bleeding and save lives until EMTs arrive. There are usually lots of volunteers.

Sooner or later one of the first-aid volunteers asks the obvious question.

“We’re learning how to treat different wounds. Isn’t there a way to prevent the injury in the first place?”

Of course there is. Trainers who study violence know the right tool for the job. The enemy they are fighting is time.

SWAT teams would be a great defense against an armed attacker, but those teams need an hour to get into the school. It isn’t a fair contest because the police don’t head towards trouble until the killing has already started. We don’t have that hour. Police officers who are already on duty need about 7 minutes to get to the murderer. Even that is too long. 7 minutes means the murderer will kill two dozen kids before the police can stop him. That isn’t an acceptable solution.

Law enforcement trainers know that whatever the solution looks like, it has to be on campus when trouble arrives. There isn’t time for anything else.

It would be great to have a uniformed school resource officer on every campus. We’ve seen these brave men and women move towards the sound gunfire and save lives. Unfortunately, they don’t save everyone. It takes minutes to get from one end of the campus to the other. Most schools don’t have a full-time school resource officer in the first place. What else can we do?

We have other options. We saw school teachers put themselves between murderers and their students. Time and again, we saw teachers stop bullets with their bodies. What can we do to keep these teachers and their students alive when each second, each heartbeat, is prescious?

Do anything that buys us a few more seconds. Safety glass buys us time. Reinforced doors buy us time, and both are money well spent. They buy us a few more seconds so help can arrive to stop the murderer.

We have school staff who have already chosen to carry a legally owned firearm off campus. They carry to protect themselves and and their family. They carry their gun with them everywhere else..except when they are at school. This might surprise you that some school staff carry guns, and that surprise is understandable. You never knew they were armed because they carry concealed. Pro-active school districts asked their sheriffs if there were any concealed carriers working at school. Could these licensed gun owners be trained and authorized to carry on school grounds?

I won’t go into details, but the training is very different from what a police officer receives. The teachers don’t need to know about high-speed car chases. Teachers don’t have to know about preserving a chain of evidence or making an arrest. The teacher’s training is stripped to essentials. These school staff learn how to respond to a lethal threat and how to protect innocent lives. They learn how to treat the injured until help arrives. That is enough.

I’ve made it sound simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. From what I’ve seen, teachers take it very seriously.

Some people don’t like the idea of armed teachers. They wish it wasn’t necessary, and so do I. I don’t always get what I want. I want to protect our children. Until we discover something better, I want to allow some school staff to volunteer and be armed.

These trained and dedicated volunteers are the last barrier between a madman and our kids. They are there when everything else has failed. We use armed men and women to protect our social elites and their families. Our children are equally important.

Maybe I have not convinced you, so let me try one more time. Most people don’t have a problem with a person who works at school using any available tool to save themselves and their family when they are at home. Now ask yourself this question. Why is it better to disarm these defenders when they are protecting “their kids” at school?

Think about it. How many more kids should we sacrifice to the fantasy of a “gun free” society?

Not one more.


I gave you 900 words for free. Please comment and share. RM

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    March 1, 2018 9:07 am

    “Saving Your Neighborhood Children Takes Five Minutes”
    Dear school board member,
    (Dear state legislator,)

    I was lied to. We were promised that students would be safer once we made it illegal for honest adults to carry guns on, or near, a school campus. Well that promise sure didn’t work. The US Department of Justice reports that almost all the active shooter incidents took place in “gun-free” zones. A quarter of those incidents took place in our schools. That is unacceptable.

    It is a nice letter, but it is meaningless without you. You can make it powerful. It takes one letter and a week, but you can change lives. Here is what you do with five minutes a day.
    I offer you the words, but your actions make it politically powerful.
    Go save lives.



  2. March 1, 2018 9:16 am

    I’ve been watching this argument (and participating in it with neighbors) and it seems to come down to this:

    Most teachers don’t want to be armed in the classroom, therefore NO teachers should be armed in the classroom.

    Democracy at work…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. March 1, 2018 3:38 pm

    In a recent Armed Lutheran podcast Aaron Israel did an interesting piece on the need for new active self defense tactics in classrooms. He outlined the use of simple barricades and the availability of adapted weapons. It is a compelling case that gets by the fears of teachers being forced to wield a gun. His ideas should be considered no matter what happens with gun-control.

    Working from Aaron’s idea, every classroom should have a locked self defense cabinet. It’s contents could be:
    1. Empty if that is what the teacher prefers.
    2. A t-ball bat. A school district near me recently resolved a difficult situation because three teachers with t-ball bats we available.
    3. A couple of fire extinguishers. These are formidable multi-use weapons with a bit of training. Listen to Aaron’s podcast.
    4. Bear spray, more training required.
    5. A gun. Basic safety training requirements but not hours of tactical drills. This is for barricaded use from a well defended position behind a book case.
    6. A full tactical suite for use beyond the classroom door. This is high training and suitable for former military or law enforcement who have nobly chosen a second career in education.

    Only the teacher and the principal knows what is in the self defense cabinet.

    The bad guy doesn’t know. That is the point.

    Rob, I enjoy your writings and podcasts. Keep up the good work.


    • March 1, 2018 6:26 pm

      That isn’t what the people who study violence recommend. That isn’t what the teachers who volunteer want.


    • March 2, 2018 7:26 am

      Care5, I think it is unwise to tell the people who are there how to solve the problem they face. Let them carry concealed if they want to. They know their capabilities better than I do.


      • March 2, 2018 12:31 pm

        OK, I can agree with that. I had hoped to achieve that with my 1 through 6 options chosen by the teacher. Aaron Israel’s ideas were all about giving teachers the skills to choose a defensive strategy if they wish. He opposed present training regimes that require teachers to cower in place.

        A concealed carry option would be great. I didn’t put it on my list because that is almost an impossible sell in a school in the present environment.


  4. March 1, 2018 5:00 pm

    You can’t equate bringing guns into schools with training teachers to do first aid. The former can result in a student getting their hands on a gun, or a teacher using it during heated moments (students getting in fights or going after teachers is FAR more common than mass shootings). Of course we know teachers often carry outside of school. Outside of school, they aren’t having to deal with young, often difficult to manage kids that don’t always behave properly and are VERY good at pushing your buttons. They aren’t having to break up fights constantly. Equate it to having to be in the middle of a road rage situation on a daily basis. Young, inexperienced teachers, in particular, take time to learn how to deal with very scary situations with students, this has always been a part of being a teacher and learning to de-escalate such situations, or call in for help. We deal enough with police that accidentally shoot people without having to add teachers accidentally panicking and “fearing for their life” and a kid getting shot as a result…or managing to get a teacher’s gun during a scuffle. The liability costs alone would be devastating for schools already struggling with constant budget cuts.

    This is the MAIN reason so many educators (and parents) are against the idea of arming teachers, but certainly, there are also the very real concerns about them being more likely to cause problems than help in a mass shooting event. Considering that trained police hit the target less than 20% of the time in active shooter situations and THEY have constant training, practice and time in the field with far more exposure to people with weapons shooting at them… it just reflects how bad the idea of just letting any teacher with a CC permit to bring a gun in, with the fantasy that they will react in an appropriate way under fire. You cannot be handling a class of kids and getting them to safety while trying to pull out a gun and take down a shooter. It’s an either-or. And to do the latter requires a HUGE amount of REGULAR training, and regular practice, something that the vast majority of teachers do not have time for, let alone can afford.

    If schools want to put so much money into some kind of “teacher marshall” program, which takes all that money away from other things that would be far more effective in protecting everyone, let alone actually, you know, EDUCATING them, well that at least is the only remotely safe way to do it. But it’d be very naive to think that many teachers would be willing to do this, be the ones to risk their lives and to suffer the humiliation that we saw happens if they then freeze and are unable to do the job (very very common particularly when you are not *regularly* exposed to that level of high-stress and panicked situation). Let alone that they would want to leave their students to find a shooter, or that they would just HAPPEN to be the one teacher that comes face to face with an active shooter out of the hundreds of teachers at a school. It just would be such a remote chance of being something that could affect such a situation in a positive manner, when there are far more viable and useful things that money could go into. Bullet-proof glass, being able to lock doors from the inside, smoke grenades, interior cameras on a system that local LEOs can access and track a shooter on, panic buttons that teachers can use to immediately report a shooter to police and decrease response times, also useful for tracking their movements. Not to mention better resources in schools to help troubled kids, to combat bullying, etc. Spend millions of dollars on THAT and do better at preventing kids from going off on their classmates in the first place than putting so much effort and money into something that has so little chance of making a real difference, and could do very very REAL harm.


    • March 1, 2018 6:25 pm

      Did you read what I wrote..beyond the title? It sounds like you are confusing the possible with the probable. Perfection is not an option. The status quo is getting our kids killed, and those are facts, not theories.

      Liked by 1 person


  1. Counting the Heartbeats for School Safety- Seconds Count

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