Does Your Options-Based Active Shooter Training Meet the Standard of Care?

Active shooter training programs

Options-based active shooter training programs.

This article was recently published in College Planning and Management Magazine. Though written for a higher education audience, most if not all of the principals I described would be relevant for options-based active shooter training programs for K12 schools as well. Non-public schools should take extra care in implementing options-based active shooter training programs as they lack qualified immunity and are subject to OSHA regulations that prohibit exposing trainees to danger from injury. Safe Havens International analysts have received many complaints from school and police officials regarding injury during options-based active shooter training programs, with at least one school employee who reported being permanently disabled when his arm was crushed during a training session. The individual I spoke to stated that he still has no use of one arm though he has been through a series of five surgical procedures. He also told me that three people in his training session had to be hospitalized for injuries received during the training session.

While options-based active shooter training programs have become fairly popular, they have also been highly controversial. Currently, there are no options-based active shooter training programs that have been validated as effective. Of considerable concern, these programs are often marketed as being “best practice” which could create a significant burden should an organization have to prove that the training program meets this definition during litigation..

Our next book Preventing and Preparing for Active Shooter, Active Killer, Hate Crimes and Terrorist Attacks contains a detailed chapter on the development of effective and court-defensible training concepts for active shooter incidents.

The complete article Training for the Unthinkable – Does Your Options-Based Active Shooter Training Approach Meet Standards of Care? at: https://webcpm.com/Articles/2017/06/01/Active-Shooter-Training.aspx

 

Learning Lessons from School Safety Litigation

A few years back I wrote about viewing school safety through the lens of litigation. Between conference keynotes and working with school districts, I am still buried up to my neck in case files for civil actions against school and public safety officials. I am always busy with expert witness work and school safety litigation is time-consuming, but some cases have more complexity than others. This month’s collection of binders contains a series of complicated situations which demand close attention and painstaking examination.

While I decline the vast majority of cases I am contacted about, I do find that working some cases serves as a valuable learning experience. School safety incidents usually look quite different when you review 5 to 10 binders of documents along with security camera footage, audio from 911 calls and other evidence in contrast to viewing a 90-second blip on the news.

Though this month marks my 35th year in the field of campus safety, I must say that I still learn something new each year. I learn from respected colleagues, from reading books and articles, conducting school security assessments, and in general, we learn a great deal from our clients. However, some of the most invaluable lessons I have learned have come from my work in school safety litigation. Spending 40, 50, 60 or more hours reviewing a case file and preparing a report that is more thoroughly cited page per page than the average master’s thesis is always challenging and informative.

Carefully reviewing depositions, policies, manuals, training program power points, legal documents, camera footage, and other forms of evidence affords quite a different view than most other forms of work that I do. These experiences shape the way I view documentation, verbiage in policies, procedures, training programs and virtually every aspect of school safety. When I deliver a conference presentation, conduct assessments, or prepare written reports for clients, I am constantly considering how the words, concepts, and actions of my audience and clients would be perceived in the event of safety-related litigation.

Whether the case involves an active shooter incident, the rape of a student in their school, molestation of young children by school employees, death from sudden cardiac arrest or the death of a child crushed by a falling object in a classroom, each case offers valuable lessons on how the chances that serious injuries and deaths can be averted with effective safety practices.

This perspective also drives a more important thought process. If the strategies, documentation, and training processes are well-designed from a liability reduction standpoint, they are usually also more reliable in preventing and preparing for school crisis events. While not always the case, most of the cases I work involve a tragic ending. Using what I learn as each tragedy is dissected page by page and frame by frame, does create the silver linings in such dark clouds. While no school safety measures are foolproof, there are many opportunities and possibilities to prevent tragic events in schools. Application of the lessons to be learned from each tragedy can help to prevent many more devastating school crisis events so that we can avoid school safety litigation altogether.

school safety litigation case files

This is the initial case file for a single-victim case resulting in school safety litigation.

School Bus Seat Belts: Opening a Dialogue

Seat Belts on School Buses?

A fatal bus crash in Chatanooga that killed six children has intensified the demand for seat belts on school buses.  This dialogue is similar to the use of various Active Shooter programs after Sandy Hook.  The dialogue is important, but decisions should be made rationally, not in response to the emotions of the tragedy.

So what are the facts about school buses and fatal crashes?

School Bus Safety Facts

According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), since 1988 there have been over 416,000 fatal crashes in the United States.  1,265 of these involved school buses, or 0.03%. 1,409 people have died in accidents involving school buses, of which 113 were students (8%).  As is seen in the graphic below, 1% of students killed during normal school travel hours were on a school bus, making school buses the safest way to get to school (NHTSA, 2009).

school bus seat belts

School Bus Seat Belts: Pros & Cons

In any rational dialogue on a topic, it is good to consider the pros and cons.

Some good things about seat belts on school buses:

  • Prevents children from being thrown from their seats
  • Teaches children to use seat belts
  • Their use may protect against litigation
  • Can improve student behavior

Some areas of concern:

  • It can cost up to $15,000 to retrofit a school bus with seat belts, including the hardening of seat frames to be able to properly install lap & shoulder belts.
  • Students can, and have, use the belt buckles as weapons.
  • It would be next to impossible to ensure that all students remain properly buckled.
    school bus seat belts

    (Image from bbc.com)

  • After an accident, disoriented and panicked students may find it difficult to get out of their seat belts.
  • The proper use of seat belts requires they be adjusted each time they are used.  This will take additional time.
  • The installation of seat belts will reduce bus capacity, requiring more buses be used to deliver the same number of students.
  • Students who fail to use seat belts properly may be thrown into belted students, creating a double impact.
  • As of yet, there are no federal standards to outline proper installation of seat belts in school buses.

Start the Dialogue

The safety of all children should be the goal of everyone who cares for them, so the ultimate goal is to have zero children killed while in our care.  Therefore, fair consideration should be given to any idea that can improve child safety, including the use of seat belts on school buses.  However, that means considering all the pros and cons.  The ones above are just a start.

Having passion for the care of children is a wonderful thing, but we need to take care to not let that passion cloud our decision-making.  The stakes are too high.