Safe Havens International Releases Report on Active Shooter Incident at Arapahoe High School
Purposes of this Active Shooter Post-Incident Review
On December 13, 2013, an aggressor who was at that time a student at Arapahoe High School (AHS) of Littleton Public Schools (LPS) in Colorado entered the school via an unsecured entrance and fatally shot seventeen-year-old student Claire Esther Davis before killing himself. Like other school attacks, this incident caused immense emotional suffering for many people.
In an effort to gather lessons that LPS and schools around the nation can study to further improve the safety of their schools, and at the request of LPS, the Safe Havens International (SHI) leadership team approved an independent review of this incident as a pro-bono effort for the District. The District not only authorized but actually encouraged SHI to broadly disseminate this report with full knowledge that many of the findings in the report would reflect negatively on their district. LPS personnel indicated that they were willing to accept the potential for additional criticism if it could help prevent future school attacks in other schools.
Eleven SHI analysts and one support staff member agreed to donate their time, talent, and energy to perform this evaluation without any compensation. These analysts are from a variety of disciplines with extensive experience working in the K12 school environment. We selected this as one of this year’s major pro bono projects because the review presented a unique opportunity to further the cause of school safety. We were able to bring the skills of eleven school safety experts with national and international expertise from a variety of relevant specialty areas into this review, which would normally be cost prohibitive for a normal case review.
Lessons Learned from the Arapahoe High School Active Shooter Incident
The report will help school safety practitioners better understand how a major incident of school violence can occur in spite of significant prevention measures. This report demonstrates how sharing of information, student threat evaluation process, anonymous reporting systems, student disciplinary approaches and law enforcement intervention can be crucial the school violence prevention.
Just as importantly, this report illustrates how rapidly students, school employees and school resource officers can take protective actions to minimize casualties in active shooter incidents. The report demonstrates that the aggressor’s attack plan essentially failed because of the quick reactions of AHS custodian Fabian Vidrio Llerenas, head librarian Tracy Murphy, other AHS staff and students, as well as Deputy Englert of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.
While this incident involves a K12 public high school, there are important lessons that have significant relevance to institutions of higher learning as well as other campuses and facilities.
The Release of the Report
In most cases, we perform this type of incident review as part of a legal case such as a lawsuit by the victim’s family against the district. In this case, the review is being done as part of an arbitration brought by the family of Claire Esther Davis with the purpose of improving school safety through lessons learned. The arbitration is resulting in three separate independent reports, including this one. At the direction of the arbitrator, SHI has publicly released our independent report today. The two other groups of experts are also scheduled to release their reports today as well. Along with the authors of the two other reports, I will be providing a live briefing of the Safe Havens report for the LPS School Board on January 21st, 2016. Each group will provide another live briefing their report of findings to the Interim School Safety on Youth in Crisis on January 22nd, 2016 at the Colorado State Capitol.
Eleven SHI analysts and one support staff member agreed to donate more than 1,000 hours of staff time to review nearly 10,000 pages of documents to help the LPS determine opportunities for improvement as well as strengths in how the district was addressing school security at the time of the incident. I would like to express my gratitude for the selfless service of the following SHI team members who assisted in this effort:
|Phuong Nguyen||William Miller|
|Steve Satterly||Chris Dorn|
|Dr. Sonayia Shepherd||Tod Schneider|
|Dr. Tina Brookes||Russell Bentley|
|Rod Ellis||Ulric Bellaire|
These individuals worked tirelessly without any compensation to review this case, conduct research and prepare our report of findings. We also appreciate the cooperation of personnel from LPS throughout this process.