School Meeting

Last Thursday we had a meeting with the superintendent of our children’s school district, but when we arrived, there had been some mix up on their end and we had to reschedule.  Today was that rescheduled meeting.

I want to say again that both my husband and I are very happy with this district.  We like the teachers and the education our kids receive.  We have always felt like a team with them and like the things we were concerned about did get addressed.

My husband and I got called back, but the superintendent was otherwise engaged and could not meet with us, so we met with the head of Public Relations and the head of Safety.

Very nice people.  The meeting began with the head of safety telling us not worry.  He told us that the school district has a plan and all is well.  I said “Great, what is that plan?”  He informed me that due to safety concerns I could not know the plan, but that there was indeed a plan.

I said , OK I understand that you do not want to divulge the ins and outs of your plan, but lets say there is an active shooter in the building of one of my kid’s schools, what are they, the kids, to do?  He never really answered the question.  He said that he and the principal work very closely with the sheriffs department and that each situation is handled on a case by case basis.

I tell him my concerns.  I tell him that often times by the time the police show up the whole thing could be over or a lot destruction has already taken place.  He disagreed.   He told me statistically school violence in the form of bombs and shooters is low. I told him I understood that, but stats didn’t mean much to me.  I told him my children are in these schools, so I would like to know what he and his staff are telling my children they should do if there turns out to be a real live shooter in their school.  What are the teachers telling the kids during these drills (He told us they conduct 2 lock down drills and 2 evacuation drills a year. )? 

Basically, I got more, we work on a case by case basis and very closely with the sheriff.  He felt the sheriff was very proactive in dealing with these issues, but I couldn’t get him to answer what “proactive” means. Pretty much the kids are told in the event of an emergency they are to do what they are told by the teacher which is, to be quiet and not use cell phones.  We were told that the teachers know what to do and we should trust that.

I tell them that it is mine and my husband’s responsibility to assure the safety of our children and when we decide to temporarily intrust their safety to someone else, it is still our responsibility to know if the person or people we are handing them over to, can in fact keep them safe or at least have a plan to do so and I would like to know what the teachers are told to do, generally speaking.

My husband adds, You say the teachers are trained.  How?  Do they know they have been trained?  Do they actually know what to do?  If we asked them would we get the same answer from each?

We were told that they have meetings on safety.  They are required by state law to conduct a safety audit and from that they can determine what needs to be changed or improved.  He said they have committee meetings and in those meetings they discuss how to handle a variety of issues and that there is a manual.  My husband asked if the manual is on a shelf somewhere in the teacher’s room or is it a well worn out book that has been referenced again and again.  He asked them if we sat down with each of our children’s teachers, would they know where the manual was and what was in it.

Both administers felt that the teachers would know what to do.  They explained that some of the teachers participate in drills on the weekends with the local police to run through different scenarios.  They actually conduct these at various schools.  I liked that.  All the schools except for the elementary school  have one armed police officers on campus.  I did not feel like we were getting the run around, but I also am not satisfied with the answers we got.  I do think they have a plan and I do think they take it seriously, but I never did an answer on what my specific children are being taught and what exactly they are to do in a bomb threat situation or an active shooter event or even if there is a fire. 

The safety person kept telling us that the principal and teachers know what to do, so I told him that I have been a substitute in this school district for 3 years and I have no idea what he wants me to do.  I told him I have a plan, but I am not sure my plan meshes with his.  I explained that I have never once been told what to do in any of those situations.  He did admit that is a weak area and they are planning on working to fix that.

I did not expect to get satisfactory answers and I did not think one meeting would be enough, but it is a start and I feel good that we called for the meeting.  I did ask how many other parents have called for a meeting on this subject and the answer was very few.  They did say they were open to ideas, suggestion, and ways to improve.  I gave them the article by Greg Ellifrtz.  I told them I did not expect them to incorporate anything, but that I thought it was a good article and wondered what he thought.  I mostly want to see if he reads it and if he will respond to me.  If he does that will give me some indication that he takes our concerns seriously and is at least willing to actively dialog with us and not just pat us on the head.

Not entirely sure where we are going to go from here.  I do know we will be asking each of our children’s teachers what the plan is.  My husband suspects we will get 4 or 5 different answers.  I also plan to do a better job of debriefing my kids after each of the drills are preformed.  Asking them what happened leading up to the drill, what they were told to do, what they actually did.  With my older children, I will ask what the people around them were doing, specifically the teachers, but also the other children.  I am also going to reach out to other parents and get a feel for how they think the school district is doing and if any of them have ideas, concerns, suggestions. If any of them have thought about it at all.  So, step one complete.

29 thoughts on “School Meeting

  1. Well having a start is at least something. You got there brains moving with your questions and concerns. If they are smart they will work hard to have a workable plan.

  2. Sounds to me like they have a basic plan, which boils down to “call the cops”…and then just trust that the cops will magically appear (perhaps riding in on some of Jennifer’s ponies, causing the “bad guys” (who always dress in either black, or prison stripes) to find remorse in their actions and become good, honest, hardworking, law-abiding citizens. Yay! Good to hear that you’ve gotten started on the whole “WTF is the proceedure” inquiry, I hope you start to get more solid answers! And yeah…you should definitely try asking some of your kids’ teachers what their response to ::insert random panicky situation here:: would be. Would be interesting to hear some of the responses!

  3. Uh…….I dunno about you….I for sure would not be satisfied with the answers you got. Especially the one where you were told they could/would not tell you what they tell the kids. No WAY! While you may have a good raport with the school in question…this “business” of them not giving you outright answers to the questions is something I would really get steamed over. The way I see it, teaching the kids the subjects needed to cover in their studies is one thing. Taking over their safety and keeping the means of doing that a secret. Nope…No Way. If I had kids in that school they would have been pulled our imediately. In the long run, the way I see it, the parent is still the person ultimately responsible for a childs safety. Period.

    • You are right, it is my respsoiblity and their answers were not encouraging, but I do think I need to try a little more before I pull them.

      I don’t think they were refusing to tell me what is happening in the classroom to hide it, I think they were afraid to commit and say “this is what we teach”. Maybe because they either are not teaching anything or they were afraid what they told me would contradict what the teachers told me…not sure.

  4. “Especially the one where you were told they could/would not tell you what they tell the kids.”

    I STRONGLY agree. Emergency procedures, where babies come from, or the fact that a kilometer is longer than a mile the teachers damn well better tell me what they are telling the kids.

  5. This school district seems to be one of the better prepare. Better in a relative sense. Most schools have a lockdown procedure and practice it. Almost as many schools have reliable a notification system, but who knows if they’ll use it appropriately. Most schools don’t have dedicated safety officers that even have the faintest idea how frequent or not bomb threats or active shooters are.

    I’ve asked the same questions at our school and have met with pretty much the same answers. They have a plan, but it is essentially lock down (or evacuate for bomb style threat) call cops and figure it out from there. There’s no policy on how quickly to notify, what to notify about or what happens after the call for help goes out.

    About two years ago, a nearby school had a shooter, who thankfully didn’t end up shooting anyone because of an ammo selection issue. But after they went into lock down, the kid with the gun reentered a classroom by breaking the non-security glass on the classroom window. A teacher talked him down long enough for LEOs to arrive.

    Right after, the principal of our school (who’s no longer there) had the audacity to criticize the teacher for his intervention. I was pretty livid that that was how my principal felt. But it accurately reflects the establishment mindset, especially in public school districts, thinks about these things. The problem is unfathomable once it goes beyond the lock-down-and-have-someone-else-magically-stop-it phase.

    I know our teachers are utterly unprepared for what to do if they’re locked down and an attacker manages to breach the doors. They’ll be improvising and I hope they do it very creatively. But they’ve not received any training in mindset, etc that will aid them in that improvisation. Some of the classrooms have windows or doors that can act as emergency egress, some don’t. Some of the rooms have pretty good improvised weapons in them. But I bet that most of the teachers in those rooms will not even think to call on those tools. I’m pretty sure they will, understandably, be a bit panicked trying to come to terms with what they can do for themselves and 20-30 kids who are about to get hurt.

    IMO, the best training for what to do once the call for help has gone out is how to think and act outside the box to overcome victimhood. This training should occur in the regular environment. The staff should be introduced to the concepts of worse case scenarios when a lock down fails. They need to be shown what can happen. They need to be shown that they aren’t as helpless and defenseless as they initially think. Heck, they should be equipped and trained with a few innocuous looking tools that can be used just in case.

    In the end, though, do I expect that my child’s teacher will put her life on the line to save my child over someone else’s or her own? No. It’d be great, but it’s an unreasonable expectation of me to have on hired help (help that’s not hired as a body guard). Do I expect that they try every damn thing they can to keep my child, the other children, themselves, etc safe? Yes. And I don’t think most teachers are prepared to be able to do that.

    • You have pretty much stated exactly how we feel. I don’t expect them to let the teachers carry guns, would love it, but I know that isn’t happening anytime soon, but how many of these events have we seen…lets do something else people!

  6. Good for you for initiating the meeting. Because of my concerns with the teachers being untrained, or not on the same page, my kids and I had our own plan…RUN. Scatter in different directions. Get out and find a safe place, then call me to let me know. I refused to let my children be locked up in a classroom to be shot like fish in a barrel. I assured the kids that I would run interference with the principal and the teachers and that they would never get in trouble for removing themselves from a bad situation.

    In junior high, they had a teacher that I shot Defensive Pistol with. While they were at that school, the plan was for them to get to his classroom, which had an outside door. I talked over the plan with the teacher and he agreed that if he saw any of my three kids coming that he would shuttle them outside, as we were of the same opinion about fish in a barrel.

    However, come high school, we were back to the get out and run plan. Luckily, almost all of their classrooms had an exterior exit door, which would have made for an easier escape.

    • We have done that we our children as well. We talked to them about using a chair to break a window and get out. We talk to them about what to do if a shooter makes it into their room etc. all our kid’s school are one floor with most having at least an outside window. I have “cased” the schools and given them a variety of options for different places in the building plus we are always working on mindset…I will survive etc, can’t guarantee my child won’t freeze or panic, but the more we work on it the better. We do it serious, but fun. None of my kids are paranoid or overly worried about anything happening.

      You are awesome! Thanks for the tips!

  7. I hate to say it, but Lockdowns don’t mean sh** when the shooter is already in the school. Do the rooms have lockable doors that are only openable from the inside of the room? How about access to windows to climb in/out?

    What is the chain of command in a situation? What if Principal is Target 0 and it already on the floor? What if no response is available? Who takes over and what is the flag to do so?

    If schools won’t tell me what they’re telling the kids, I’d have to question what ELSE they’re not telling us or the kids.

    I don’t expect the teachers to be necessarily wielding guns in class or have a shotgun strapped to the chalkboard, but I do expect reasonable and prudent precautions and CLEARLY defined hierarchy and steps to follow. I expect to see what-if’s flowcharted for command structure, call trees, etc.

    I have a friend in Texas who has a teacher spouse. I’ll check to see if they have any kind of emergency procedures I can get a hold of… who knows… it may give you something to take back to them.

  8. I happen to love what you wrote. I have given my kids MY plan. Get out, climb out and run. Move away from the shooter and fight if you have to. Use trashcans, desks, anything to escape. When they ran the drill for our school, my kids made it to the woods, and called me. I had some explaining to do to get them back in school, and they were more mad about the count being wrong, than what my kids did.

    Way to hold them accountable. I would prefer the principal to tell me he has a AR-15 loaded and ready, but a man has to dream, huh?

  9. It sounds like they have a “plan” but don’t know what they really need to do. Scary. I’m so glad I don’t have school age kids! I agree, your kids probably know more about what to do than the teachers.

    Hang in there and don’t let them give you the run around.

  10. Here’s the thing. School officials are universally dumbasses. Sorry for the language, but that’s the only way to put it. They will lie to your face rather than have to admit they don’t know something.

    Go to your local Chief of Police. Assuming that your School Resource Officer is actually an employee of the local police force, it’s that police force’s job to be primary response. Go to the source. Don’t ask idiots who can’t teach children what they are going to do in an emergency. Ask the people who are going to show up with guns.

    There’s no real secret in what the active shooter response is. The Chief, or more likely, his Community Resources officer (ours is a Lieutenant and is also the SWAT commander) will lay it all out for you. The system is pretty universal nowadays.

    Basically there are two sorts of school lockdowns. Internal and External. External is pretty straightforward. The cops call the school and say “Hey, someone is running from us/robbing the bank/holed up in a house nearby… and the school locks all the outer doors and doesn’t let the kids outside. Since that should be the basic rule anyway, this isn’t a big deal.

    Internal lockdowns are different. The school figures out that there is an intruder. They make a call over the intercom (some insist on using codes, others say that’s silly) and all the teachers lock their doors and close any window shades they have. No one in or out of any door until they are released, probably by coded call or challenge/password. The teachers have three colored cards that they are supposed to put up on an internal and an external window. I think they are Green, Red, and Yellow. Green means all students present. Red means students missing. Yellow means “I have more students than I should have.” I guess that means that they might snatch up random kids in the hall should they be out there.

    Generally, students and teachers are not taught to fight with intruders. They are taught to hide. Now I can understand that they should not be taught to roam the halls with bookbags assaulting anyone that they don’t know, but asking them to hide under the desk while people are shooting them is pretty stupid. Once in a while you’ll get a maverick who will teach the students that if someone gets in that they should throw books and chairs at them and then gang tackle them, but that’s pretty rare. I say that if the dude is in the room with a gun, you’re pretty much dead anyway, you should try to go out big. It isn’t like he can kill you twice. I read a story about a personal defense trainer who ran that type of drill and found that even with the attacker in a red man suit they couldn’t safely run the drill. They were beating the snot out of him so badly that it just wasn’t safe.

  11. The cops might have different instructions based upon local protocol. They’ve all pretty much gotten the message that putting up a cordon and waiting for the SWAT team to arrive is stupid. Some insist on 4 person entry, some have progressed to solo officer entry. Our PD leaves it up to the officer responding. Our patrol officers have the authority to make the entry decision on their own, and can enter alone or in teams as they see fit. Our schools have lots of cameras, and each one is viewable at all other School Resource Officer locations. This means that if we get a shooter in the High School, one of the School Resource Officers at another school can call up all the High School cams on his screens and coordinate the search/assault from his location.

    It’s not rocket science, and it certainly isn’t secret. Because of a few safety concerns, they never run entry drills when there are kids in the schools. They do it on weekends or on days off if they do it at all.

    Also, local PDs have coordination plans with other PDs and Sheriff’s Offices. A school shooter incident will pull resources from every surrounding area. The critical factor is time. The longer it takes for the shooter to get to your child, the better for your child. More cops will show up and make his life miserable before he gets to your child. Aside from requiring people to face the facts and teach the kids to attack intruders, I can’t think of anything that our local PD isn’t doing. The problem is that you’d never get most parents to agree that attacking is the best option. They’d rather keep their heads in the sand.

    • Well, geezz, I should have skipped the meeting with the school and just had a meeting with you:)

      Thank you so much for all the info. I will set up a meeting with the sheriff. The safety officer at the school does work for the police department and he carries a gun, but he is very overweight and carries himself very…let’s say unprofessional. He does not instill a lot of confidence.

  12. Both of my kids go to a private school in the area. Because my boy wrestles I have gotten to know the wrestling coaches pretty well and the head coach also happens to be in charge of school security.

    This school also happens to be a little different than any other school I have ever seen. It is very conservative and that extends to gun rights as well. Nearly every car in the parking lot (not driven by a student) wears a NRA, SAF or CCA sticker. The school hosts CCW and personal defense classes.

    During one of my discussions he mentioned that he had a meeting with a former member of Knesset Guard about the school security the next day.

    Later he mentioned that they were making a number of changes to improve the security based on his recommendations.

    Another coach told me that I should feel good about my children’s safety because it was “well armed” with a little snicker.

    Obviously as a private school, containing a church, they can take different actions to protect their student (some of which are high profile) than public schools can… but they are out there.

  13. It sounds like it was an informative and somewhat productive meeting. It also sounds like they weren’t prepared for your level of concern. Their answers were the PCspeak that one would expect, yet I got the feeling that they were listening to you and your husband and picked up on the fact that they needed to improve their plan(?). Hope the follow-up meetings go better and start to address your concerns.

    • Oh yes, the answers were very PC. I knew as soon as the PR chic was there that this was not going to be a meat and potatoes kind of exchange. They were very concerned with glossing over the issues and pacifying us.

  14. OK. Your husband is right on the money with his assessment. If he and you don’t mind then I’ll e-mail you some question’s to be asking and let you know where to look for the right answer’s. Most of what you were told though is smoke and mirror’s.

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