School Shootings – What are we doing to protect our children?

By John Krupa III

The Sandy Hook school shooting shocked the very psyche of this nation. I was numbed by its impact, and as a father of two grade school children, it was heart breaking to even imagine what those parents had to endure in the loss of their children.

As the nation mourned, my feelings quickly turned to anger as I began to analyze the incident. I began to visualize as an Immediate Action / Rapid Deployment (IARD) trainer what possible law enforcement (LE) response solutions could have resolved this situation without loss of life. My conclusion was – none.

Since the shooting, school administrators and law enforcement agencies across the country have become overwhelmed with the task of developing more effective measures to prepare school personnel on how to respond to active shooter incidents.

Where do we start?School

To find the answers to this question, we need to look at the commonalities among previous school shootings from Columbine to Virginia Tech. A close inspection will show that many of the same circumstances existed in just about all of these incidents.

Here are some common traits in many of these incidents:

  • The shooters were aware that teachers and faculty were unarmed. (In some instances, “Gun Free Zone” signs were posted outside the school.)
  • The shooters were aware of the “lock down” procedure and knew that children would not be evacuated or removed from the scene, but instead, would be herded into classrooms behind locked doors.
  • The shooters were aware that law enforcement would eventually respond and knew that they only had minutes to inflict casualties before LEO’s would arrive on scene.
  • The shooters had predetermined that they would not allow themselves to be captured alive and that they would commit suicide to avoid contact with LEO’s.
  • Specifically, in the Columbine incident, the shooters attempted to buy more time to “hunt and kill” people by planting improvised explosive devices and incendiary devices to impede LE response.
  • Also, in the Virginia Tech incident, the shooter chained and barricaded the doors to the building he was in to, again, buy more time to “hunt and kill” people.

What have we learned from these incidents?

In analyzing these gruesome incidents, particularly Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Sandy Hook; unarmed teachers, professors and faculty members were summarily executed when they attempted to resist or confront the shooters.

Many good people – adults on scene at the initiation of these incidents – who tried to do the right thing (unarmed) and protect children and students from being massacred, did so at the expense of their own lives!

So the question that needs to be asked is – “Who really is the first responder?” Is it the LE officers arriving on scene minutes later to handle the situation, or is it the adults capable of taking action that are actually on scene when the incident initiates?

Situational7Maybe we as law enforcement officers need to reevaluate our IARD strategies and reconsider other solutions in defining who the first responder should be.

In retrospect, what if these very same teachers, professors, and faculty members that ran to the gunfire in these incidents were properly trained in the use and application of handguns for personal defense? What if these “first responders” were trained in basic IARD concepts so they could react accordingly and take the appropriate actions to stop the active shooters before they could inflict casualties?

Something has to change! People can’t wait anymore for an LE agency to receive a 911 call of shots fired in a school, dispatch that call to units in the area, and then have it take precious minutes for officers to respond and deploy while the shooter indiscriminately executes his victims. We’ve seen this reactionary response repeatedly in these incidents, and it’s just not working!

Thousands of officers across the country, including myself, have been trained in IARD tactics. I run the officers at my agency through an eight-hour in-service IARD training program annually, and it’s just not enough. The time has come where we need to look beyond reacting to school shooting incidents and find a way to have first responders on-site, ready to go when an incident starts.

Where do we go from here?

Since Sandy Hook, I’ve had many discussions and debates with other officers and trainers from various LE agencies on how to resolve this issue and here are some of the solutions that have been brought up in these conversations.

School Resource Officers (SRO) – The knee-jerk reaction after a school shooting incident is always to put police officers in the schools or hire campus police.

The problem with this solution is budget cuts and man power shortages just won’t allow LE agencies to provide enough personnel to adequately cover all the schools in all the school districts. Think about how many schools are in your school district and ask yourself, where will those officers come from?

Also, because of the thin blue line, each school will be lucky if they have one officer assigned per school day. Keep in mind that the SRO will only be there during regular school hours – 0800 to 1600. There won’t be coverage for after school functions or evening sports events.

There are a lot of holes that need to be filled in this solution process. Grade school, high school, and college students should not have part-time or partial protective coverage – it should be constant. We haven’t even included student coverage for off campus events such as away games or field trips!

Off-duty and retired LEO’s – This is a great idea to resolve the man power shortage issue, but again, where is the money going to come from to fund their payroll budget? Paying off-duty or retired LEO’s at an hourly rate would cost a small fortune, and we’d still have to deal with the coverage issue as discussed above.

Security guards – In addition to the previously expressed concerns, now we’re looking at a cheap “deterrent” and the question is, will they be armed? Having unarmed security guards responding to a shooting incident will have the same results as unarmed faculty – and we’re back to square one.

Armed teachers and faculty – Of all the buzz words that have drawn debates across the country, “armed teachers” has been among the most controversial. While this is nothing new to some school districts in Texas and Arizona, the overall concept, in general, has been met with rigid opposition.

In reality, it makes sense. School districts can have a select group of teachers, professors, and school faculty trained in the use of handguns for personal defense as well as basic IARD tactics in how to respond to and deal with active shooters and how to interact with officers arriving on scene.

Advantages of using armed teachers and faculty:

  • There is no need to hire extra personnel, but instead use existing school personnel with more responsibilities.
  • There is no need to seek funding or create new budgets, but instead rely on the use of school personnel already on salary.
  • School districts can rely on select teachers and sports coaches to provide coverage during and after school activities, sports events (home and away games), and field trips.
  • Having more than one armed teacher in a school (possibly two or three at a time) will allow for coordinated first responder engagements of active shooters.
  • Allows for use of school personnel that have extensive knowledge of the facility they work in and have a better chance of controlling and dominating terrain.

Conclusion

Armed teachers may not be the answer to every scenario, but having the advantage of trained school personnel on-site and ready to take immediate action is the true definition of first responder!

Ultimately, it’s not a question of “if” another school shooting is going to happen, but when and where? Will we be ready?

As always, stay safe, remain vigilant and fight to win!

John Krupa III
Master Firearms Instructor (ILETSB)
President / Director of Training
Spartan Tactical Training Group, LLC

About John Krupa III

John is an active duty police officer with the Orland Hills Police Dept. (IL.) and has more than 22 years of experience in law enforcement. He has previously served as a patrol officer, rapid response officer, field training officer, and firearms instructor with Chicago PD. He is a graduate firearms instructor from the Secret Service Academy, FBI, DEA, and FLETC. John is founder and president of Spartan Tactical Training Group and has previously presented at training conferences across the country with the AFTE, ASLET, GTOA, IALEFI, ILEETA, ISOA, LETC, MidTOA, MTOA, NTOA, and TTPOA.

For more information about training courses offered by John Krupa, visit his website at www.TeamSpartan.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Action Target as a company.

22 thoughts on “School Shootings – What are we doing to protect our children?

  1. I could not agree more. As long as there is bad guys, there will be bad things. I bet each school has a few good people willing to make a difference. I don’t know how to help, but sincerely hope that we can convince the na-sayers to buy in to the program. There is no other realistic solution.
    Great job-Thank You!!
    MJM

  2. I agree completely. Also, hiding behind the prominently placarded firehoses in their wall-mounted cabinets, maybe the schools need to be placing some bolt cutters, for those cases where the shooter chains the doors shut before going postal.

  3. John,

    What a great article! You’ve put into words what a lot of cops are thinking, but hesitant to say. As they say in the military, “someone has to take point” and you sir, stepped right up without questioning your decision. Our chiefs and administrators need to hear more of this from guys like you that lead by example. Thanks for putting it out there and keep it coming.

    J.P.

  4. Krup –
    This article hits home hard. Sometimes you can’t pull your punches and you have to say what needs to be heard. As the training LT. for our agency, we have to keep all options on the table. I think you summed it up best when you said “if what we’re doing is not working, then something has to change”. I’m with you on this one, brother. I like the ideas you have in your solution points. You can bet I’ll be stealing some of them to use over here! Take care.

    Lt. A Pierce (APD)

  5. KISS: Don’t change the terminology.

    Leave law enforcement as the first *response*, the first ones from “outside.”

    Armed teachers should be the *reaction*, the “self” in self-defense.

  6. Our agency admin has been deadlocked on this topic with the county board for some time now. Our agency administration is supporting the idea of arming and training school faculty in all school districts here and many of the teachers are supportive as well. Teachers in one of the school districts assembled a group of volunteers who are willing to go through a training program on their own time to make this happen.

    Mr. Krupa’s article has given us some of the answers and solutions we need to turn the tides in our favor at the next meeting with the county board on this issue. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this information with us. I’m sure many other agencies and people of like minds will benefit as well. Excellent article.

    Capt. Green
    Training coordinator
    Lake View Sheriff’s Office

  7. The teachers’ unions are dead set against arming teachers. This was the NRA’s initial suggestion and it drew jeers from the Press & Media. In Chicago Public Schools, there is still NO guideline for handling an active school shooter, because the Mayor, Union Presient & County Board President (& Mayor Bloomberg of NYC) are ALL gainst putting guns in schools. They prefer TSA metal detectors to keep guns out and want to disarm the parents, neighbors and area vets who could possibly make a difference. ROE’s also have to change. 1st Responders have to go in armed & fast.

  8. JK-

    Good article and it makes perfect sense to guys like me!

    The roadblocks that I see are:
    1.Teachers unions and parents that are uncomfortable with firearms around their kids.
    2.Teachers of the liberal persuasion, are so against firearms, they would rather take their chances on LE arriving in time to save lives.
    3.Finding and arming the correct staff members that have the combat mindset to actually engage a threat if the time comes. (wresting coach, PE teacher, janitor..)

    At home, I know my kids are safe because of my situational awareness and weapons/tactics training. Ironically, all of my pistol training is through Krupa and STTG.

    Having small kids in school myself, these are worrisome times and something needs to be done for sure and it needs to be done now.

    Be safe…Al

  9. THIS IS THE ONLY SOLUTION! Perhaps even local CHL training centers and instructors would organize and donate/discount Classes and fees to teachers feeling the same and needing instruction. Parents and businesses who have school age children could also step up and donate to help offset some of these costs.
    Good work, John.

  10. I volunteered with a local school principal to help follow the Israeli model and have volunteer armed parents patrol the school district I live in. I have 2 children enrolled in the district. We need to have concealed carry legislation in illinois that allows for this. An armed society is a polite society.I also worry about terrorism at our schools.Great article John.

  11. Trained volunteers is also a solution to assist – we have an RSO at a range to keep people safe, we can have an armed RSO (trained IARD/certified) at a school or an event when the need may arise.

  12. Excellent article – spot on! As a college professor in Illinois (soon to be the last CCW state!) – I truly hope that such policies are adopted in all schools, colleges & universities throughout the state. As a common bumper stickers says – “When seconds count, police are only minutes away!”

    I am doing my best at my college to proceed forward with on-campus carry. Unfortunately, news articles suggest such will not be the case with Illinois universities – resulting in even more “gun free” shooting galleries! – jm

  13. Great, well thought-out article. We need more of these in the wake of massive political pressure to unarm law abiding good citizens at a time in which these same citizens are being indiscriminanately targeted by those that ignore the rule of law. There are far too many administrators out there that are folding to this pressure and presenting half- baked ideas. I almost fell off my treadmill several weeks ago as a Quad City news channel was reporting on one such response plan: the plan included students throwing pencils and books at an armed intruder and attempt to subdue him. If that was the schools best response, I would pull my children out of there!

  14. We hear a lot of rhetoric to justify ineffective solutions as worthwhile because we hope they might save just one life. Who can argue against that? Every innocent life is precious! Unfortunately, hope is not an effective survival tactic.

    Mr. Krupa’s conclusion is spot on; there is no solution that answers every scenario. Our focus, however, should be on those solutions that maximize potential to save as many innocent lives as possible. His approach strikes a unique balance that considers what is actionable, practical, and effective. I know we have teachers who are willing to put their own lives on the line to protect our children. We should give them the tools and training they need to have a fighting chance. If I cannot be there myself, this is what I want for my children.

  15. John,
    I’m an officer and a Concealed Carry instructor here in Ohio so I see a lot of the average persons, including school teachers. I’m for allowing teachers armed in the schools but the training and requirements need to be thought out long and hard. We need to first consider the safety of that firearm at all times. It’s quite probable that a teacher could be disarmed by one of their students or the teahcer simply gets lazy and places the firearm in a desk drawer because of need or convenience. There needs to be continuous training in place for teachers to work with law enforcement and how to respond when law enforcement arrives.
    I fully agree with you John that the teachers need to be our first line of defense. I have a grand child that is bussed to a rural school for pre school and while I know the deputies would put their lives on the line like any of us, I’m afraid the response time would be way to late for many of the children and it tears at me now even thinking about it.

  16. Well said, John. The article is logical and organized and shows research. The problem is most people can’t see the logic because of the emotion. The emotional folks say control the guns (which most of us know doesn’t apply to the criminal element – they ignore it). Have you compared the shootings in terms of gun control bias? I remember there was a lot of talk after the shooting about Virginia’s gun control laws having a negative impact.

  17. Good stuff, John … well-reasoned!

    If you arm the teachers, you’d better have some rock-solid protections in place:
    • Laws that shield staff-responders from liability for incidental injuries and/or fatalities — think like “Good Samaritan” laws.
    • A certified training program for staff IARD, with periodic re-certification, including proper IARD execution and firearms qualification, including:
    ◦ Budget and time-off for training, range time, ammo, etc.
    ◦ Budget and plan for after-incident counseling, etc.
    •A GIANT liability insurance policy, that includes all legal expenses for staff-responders.

    Oh, and don’t forget the annual bake sale to fund Kevlar vests and flash bangs for the staff! (I’m only half kidding.)

  18. Right on John. As I said at a resent village board meeting in Northbrook, IL. The only way to stop a mad man with a gun is a brave man with a gun. There are a few brave teachers who would go armed and I have trained with some of them at MTG. Sadly most teachers are brainwashed against guns, even the brave ones. That they would, as you said, run to the gun fire and give their lives unarmed is ludicrous! We need to give those that choose to make a difference the tools they need to save our kids! Somehow we are going to have to find a way to adopt a system similar to what the Israelis are doing in their schools to protect their children. Love it or hate it, but what they are doing works!

  19. I would suggest teachers, janitorial and staff personnel should be offered the opportunity to be armed. Upon acceptance of each person obviously should be trained in firearm instruction and tactics used by their local LE agencies. The staff that has risen to the call of duty should be compensated on a percentage of their salary. Years ago when the fire/police programs were popular my agency offered additional ten percent to become dual certified. Yes, this was tough at times but we managed to work through the details. Just a suggestion, be safe in all your travels. By the way a protective vest should be made available to our newly honored protectors.

  20. At the very least, teachers and staff should have access to Tasers. Guns would be advisable, but a lot harder to get past a public that seems to have lost sight of the fact that we are ultimately responsible for our own safety and the safety of those that are in our care. Police can only do so much and in any case they will rarely be around at the very moment that it is critical for them to stop these tragedies.

  21. There currently is a situtation at my son’s school in New York with a homeless man. He is making threats to kill the principal and saying the children are demons and they need to die. I only learned of this information this morning and I am sick to my stomach. This man needs to be put away. He obviously has MAJOR mental issues. I will do what ever it takes to try to avoid another tradegy from happening. My heart breaks for all the lives that have been lost to other tragedies. I dont want there to be any more. Any advice that can be given for the steps I need to take would be most helpful. Law enforcement and NY State need to get involved to try to stop things like this before they happen and NOT WAIT UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE!!!!!!!! These are our kids and it is our job to protect them!!!

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