Shelter-in-Place Protects School


In Jacksonville, Florida, the Glynn Academy had a noxious cloud, at times visible to the naked eye, descend upon the school.  A nearby mill, GP Cellulose, had a power outage, resulting in the escape of gases that would have normally been incinerated.  These gases were not lethal, but they smelled awful, and triggered an asthma attack in one student, who was treated and released.

Shelter-in-place protects from CBR incidents.

Shelter-in-Place Analysis

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states, ” ‘Shelter-in-place’ means to take immediate shelter where you are—at home, work, school, or in between. It may also mean “seal the room;” in other words, take steps to prevent outside air from coming in. This is because local authorities may instruct you to “shelter-in-place” if chemical or radiological contaminants are released into the environment.”  In most cases, a shelter-in-place is in response to chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) incidents.  Schools may also use shelter-in-place in response to severe weather, such as tornadoes.

A shelter-in-place for CBR requires a bit of planning and preparation.  Most newer schools have Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditi0ning (HVAC) units.  These units can be used to create positive pressure inside the school, helping to keep gases out, for as long as there is power to them.  They should also be set so that they do not draw air from the outside, as they often do to create fresh air.  Should the power fail, the school will need to be able to seal the school from the outside.  This may require the use of plastic sheeting, duct tape, or other materials to seal cracks in windows and doors.

This also requires more than materials.  Parents and other stakeholders need to know that when a school is in such a situation, they should not approach the skill.  There are few ways to allow people to enter a leave a sealed school without contaminating the school, endangering its occupants.  Therefore a good shelter-in-place protocol will include community awareness and education, as well as materials and training.

The Glynn Academy is fortunate that the chemicals were not lethal.  What about businesses near your school?  Have they factored into your risk assessment process?

Woman Charged with School Assault Sentenced

School Assault

A mother of a student at Grover Elementary School in Akron was sentenced for a school assault.  Last February, the mom reportedly got into an argument with a teacher and the principal.  She reportedly began cursing at them, pushed the teacher, then knocked the principal to the ground.  The principal allegedly hit her head in the fall. When a cafeteria worker attempted to intervene, the mother was alleged to have punched her.  The school was placed in a lockdown, and the police were called.

The mother has been sentenced to fourteen months in jail for fifth-degree felony assault, and misdemeanor assault.

School Assault Analysis

A quick look on the Internet did not find definitive statistics on the number of teachers assaulted by parents.  There are statistics for school assaults against teachers by students.  The U.S. Department of Education reported that in the 2007-2008 school year, 127,120 (4 percent) public school teachers (K-12) were assaulted at school—hit, kicked, bitten, slapped, stabbed or shot.  In the same school year, 222,460 teachers (7 percent) were threatened by students.

Suffice to say, teachers are a target for those upset with the educational system.  What has been lost is the ability to discuss issues without resorting to physical or verbal violence.  Since teachers are authority figures, it is easier for them to become the focal point of frustration for both students and parents.

So what do schools do?

Like everything else related to school safety, school assault prevention requires planning and follow through.  What training have your teachers been given in de-escalation techniques?  What training have they been given to identify when a person is building up to an outburst?  Schools should identify appropriate places for people to meet with parents, places with safe areas to retreat to should an outburst occur.

Of course, the best technique is one that should be used with the children, building a relationship with the parents of trust and open communication.  Knowing the parent can help identify points of contention, and can provide a baseline of trust with which to address conflict.  It is not a cure all, but it can curtail the incidents of school assaults.

Schools should be safe for everyone.

Letting Emotion Drive School Safety Efforts can be Deadly

A high school student was shot and killed by one of her friends in this spot. Multiple opportunities to prevent this tragedy were missed. The school and district had focused intently on active shooter incidents while ignoring numerous proven strategies to prevent the types of homicides that claim the lives of 8.5 times more victims than active shooter events. The school district settled the civil action filed in this case for $350,000. Tragically, the school district and local law enforcement agencies had been provided with approximately $49 million in federal grant funding for school safety efforts, security and emergency preparedness.


Factual Information Should Drive School Safety Efforts

With striking regularity we are pounded with headlines that paint a terrifying picture of school safety in America. Reports that claim that school shootings take place almost daily, that the majority of students and staff who lock down in school shooting events are killed, and that we must now focus our efforts on training students and staff to attack gunman. The problem is that each of the examples and many more too numerous to list in a blog have not been supported by any real evidence. In some cases, these alarmist assertions have been made by vendors with a product or service to sell at any cost. In other instances, outlandish claims have been made for clearly political purposes. And in many cases, they are made by people with the best of intentions. The problem is each of these and other alarmist and unsubstantiated claims result in the deaths of innocent students annually. This is because many of our local, state and federal school safety efforts in the past two years are intensively and pervasively focused on active shooter incidents to the exclusion of far more common causes of death in K12 schools. In effect, preventable deaths continue to occur while we focus intently on the most frightening types of events with intensity while dedicating precious few resources to leading causes of death in K12 schools. Having worked seven active shooter incidents in American and Canadian schools, I fully understand that mass casualty school shootings are truly horrific events. However, the tragedies faced by many parents whose children die from more common causes cannot be ignored just because the quiet tragedies do not receive intensive media coverage.

In his groundbreaking report Relative Causes of Death published by the Maine Department of Education, Steve Satterly proves conclusively that active shooter events are not the leading cause of death in American K12 schools. Satterly’s research is the first time the standard United States Government definition for active shooter incidents has been used to determine how many people have been murdered by active shooters in American K12 schools. He found that 62 people were murdered by active shooters on K12 property over a time period of fifteen years, from 1998-2012. This figure is much lower than the numbers we often see reported. Satterly spent two months evaluating mounds of data to compare active shooter deaths to other causes of death on K12 school campuses. Among other things, Satterly demonstrated that twice as many people died from suicide on school property (129) as were murdered by active shooters, that other forms of homicide are far more common than active shooter deaths and that school-related traffic fatalities caused nearly 8.5 times more deaths than K12 active shooter deaths.

While active shooter incidents have resulted in the brutal murders of 62 students and staff from 1998 to 2012, school-related traffic fatalities claimed 568 lives during the same time period.  While any school can be the scene of a mass casualty shooting, other types of school crisis events have claimed far more lives over the past fifteen years.  School safety resources should be utilized in a thoughtful and balanced manner.

While active shooter incidents have resulted in the brutal murders of 62 students and staff from 1998 to 2012, school-related traffic fatalities claimed 525 lives during the same time period. While any school can be the scene of a mass casualty shooting, other types of school crisis events have claimed far more lives over the past fifteen years. School safety resources should be utilized in a thoughtful and balanced manner.

Over the past two years, school and public safety officials have often focused far more time, energy and money towards the prevention of and preparation for active shooter events than on other deadly threats. This would be an improvement if there were a focus on strategies that have been proven to work and if the efforts to prevent more common causes of death were not suffering as a result. Active shooter events are one very real possibility for any school in America. No school is immune to the genuine possibility of such an event on campus. However, Satterly’s research demonstrates that school officials should also devote attention to the types of violent deaths they are far more likely to experience. While most children who die on school property die one at a time without national media attention, these deaths are just as tragic as those horrific events that capture the headlines as well as tax our limited school safety resources.