Perrysburg Schools has made vast changes to how it would respond to a shooter in one of its building.
Superintendent Tom Hosler said the district formerly planned for lockdown mode where students and teachers would hide in their classrooms. Now, he said, the plan will involve evacuation and use of other survival tactics that are "common sense."
"People that go in schools to do bad things do so to harm as many people as possible, and the police not coming in plays into their hands," Mr. Hosler said. "Keeping kids in their classroom gives them more targets."
Perrysburg Deputy Chief Michael Gilmore said police have studied, learned, and changed its tactics with school shootings.
"Time is of the essence, our first responders are now going in the building," Chief Gilmore said. "We are still changing and learning the best way to handle it. We do know [students] sitting in a corner won't work."
Now the Perrysburg Schools' main goal is getting students to evacuate the building. If classrooms are located near a shooter, students and teachers would barricade their rooms and use other survival tactics instead of hiding and waiting. The school would provide information on the PA system and say there is a person with a gun and say his or her location too.
"They are going to hear shooting anyways," Mr. Hosler said. "This gives them information to make the best decision. It lets them know if the shooter is by the gym, and they are at the other end of the school they can evacuate safely."
For classes near the shooter, Mr. Hosler said, barricading the door with large furniture, securing the door with a rope-tie or door wedges are some immediate ways to slow down the shooter. He said searching the room for something to hit or throw at the shooter would be another encouraged survival tactic.
"If [the shooter's] goal is to harm as many as possible he is not going to waste his time trying to get through a door," Mr. Hosler said.
These changes are in conjunction with the ALICE program that police stations and school districts are being trained for. It stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. Sylvania police Sgt. Justin Music met with Mr. Hosler and Perrysburg staff recently to teach this program and provide training.
Some area police stations, school districts, and universities have implemented the ALICE program, including Owens Community College, Oregon Police Department, Springfield Township Police, University of Toledo, Bryan Schools, Bowling Green Police Department, and Ohio State University.
Mr. Hosler said with this system teachers will have to think survival first, no matter what it takes.
"It is a different thought process," Chief Gilmore said. "There is no cookie-cutter way for it. Teachers will have to think on their feet."
Later this month, Perrysburg Police will visit each school in the district to discuss best evacuation plans and response for a shooting. Mr. Hosler said he talked to the police about making these changes at the beginning of the year, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting fueled the need to speed up the process.
Mr. Hosler said there will be drills for teachers later this year, but he is unsure how he will involve students. He said practice is important, but you don't want to scare smaller children. Schools may possibly just show elementary students how to escape through the window.
"There was natural tension after Sandy Hook," Mr. Hosler said. "Folks wanted to look at how everything is done. It showed us it could happen anywhere. We have made the shift not to be passive in our response."
Contact Matt Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786 or on twitter at @mthompson25.
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