Just this year, we’ve seen 293 mass shootings in America — according to the Gun Violence Archive.
In addition to all of the traditional subjects in the classroom, Alcester-Hudson students are learning how to keep themselves safe if an intruder walks in.
When you ask an eighth grader about the best part of school, this is the sort of innocent answer that comes to Carly Patrick’s mind.
“I really like talking with friends like at lunch or just between periods or hanging out with people and just having fun,” Carly Patrick, 8th grader, said.
There are some topics that aren’t as care-free.
“Think about the door. Which way does it open?”
This is a simulation…
“This doesn’t have a closing arm, so get something wider than the door…”
…of what could happen…
“Get an extension cord and tie it to the door…”
…if an intruder with a gun got into school.
Retired police officer Chad Sheehan is teaching Carly and her friends how to use their surroundings to barricade themselves in a classroom. After 23 years in law enforcement, the former Sioux City officer took off his badge to focus on this type of training.
“I think it’s important so we can empower them. So they know what to do if something bad happens,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan travels throughout the region to teach SAVE Yourself, a program he developed. It stands for shelter in place, awareness, violence stops violence and evacuate. Sheehan says the goal is to get students thinking about what to do in an active shooter situation.
“Law enforcement is going to do everything they can do to get there as fast as possible, but it’s going to take time. And time is minutes and minutes are too long when seconds could save your life,” Sheehan said.
“I really wish we didn’t have to be prepared for stuff like this.” We need to have our students be able to be prepared and know it is a reality in today’s world,” Tim Rhead, superintendent, said.
Carly and eighth grader Aleigha Paulson say they learned a lot during this training, including how to be aware of their surroundings.
“I think it is pretty important, because if somebody were to come in, then you would know all the exits, where to go to hide. Where to get out, where everything is,” Carly said.
“And when you go into a classroom, maybe you should try to map out what you’d do if a situation happened,” Aleigha said.
Still, this type of seminar brings up a lot of heavy emotions.
“I think it’s nice we do get to be a little more prepared, but I do think it’s sad we have to have these conversations,” Aleigha said.
“It’s awful how it’s so common, but it’s really bad, all these school shootings. It’s just scary for all the new generations,” Carly said.
Sheehan says he doesn’t want to scare students, so he tries to keep everything age appropriate and tries to meet them at their level.
“When bad things happen, you have options. If you really want to increase your chances of survival, you should know what your options are ahead of time. You should start planning and thinking about what you should do in different situations,” Sheehan said.
It’s a tough lesson to learn, but Carly says she’s glad the district brought Sheehan here for active shooter training, because she knows we don’t always live in a care-free world.
“One of them could happen here, now we know what to do. Before we didn’t know what to do,” Carly said.
The school district also opened Sheehan’s training session to community members.
Rhead hopes that helps the entire population know how to handle active shooters, and spurs conversations between parents and their children.