State police help schools train for potential shootings
It's the experience every parent and teacher fears - a gunman inside their children's school.
But Indiana State Police are helping school leaders learn how to limit the danger with active shooter training. Their first stop was Thursday at Hauser High School in Bartholomew County.
The bullets may have been blanks, but gunfire in school is a real scenario school leaders say they have to prepare for.
"I felt myself even almost tearing up. I kept thinking about the safety of the children while I watched this," said Superintendent Kathy Griffey, Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corporation.
"It sent chills down your spine that this could happen. You just never know," added the district's transportation director, Jim Tedder.
In the active shooter training, a state trooper acted as a gunman, searching for a student and firing shots through the halls of Hauser High School.
"This is pretty consistent with most of the footage that we've seen in the past from security cameras (at school shootings)," said Indiana State Police Trooper Matt Haviland.
School administrators trained with State Police in the first of 14 active shooter sessions in schools across Indiana. They walked along, following the scene through the school, as troopers demonstrated a gunman's path, similar to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
"From what we know about that incident, he moved a lot in the same way, not running the halls. He wasn't sprinting door to door. He was very slow and methodical," Haviland explained. "If you think it's gunfire, react accordingly. It's always better to react the way you think it is, than to guess or second-guess yourself and talk yourself out of taking action."
Haviland says the staff's reaction should be fast, calm, and attempt to create a delay in the shooting - or a opportunity to save lives.
"To stand there and go toe-to-tow with someone with a firearm may not be the best bet. Depends on a lot of things, including how close we are to him, but to have something there, a distraction to create distance so that I can run and get out of the line of fire, that's what we're looking for," Haviland said.
"Run, hide or fight, that is a great simple, simply philosophy to do," Tedder said.
Troopers showed how locked classroom doors prevent easy targets, since the gunman would often move on, how entryways can be better protected with locks and window coverings, and why practicing drills is key to school safety.
"We often practice," said Hope Elementary Principal Lisa Smith. "I think it's important to have it monthly now and actually walk them through the students through it so they're not afraid."
From start to finish, Thursday's scenario took four minutes, nine seconds, which troopers say is an eternity for a gunman near children. But they've found most gunman in school shooting incidents are inside for an average of eight minutes before police arrive.
That's why troopers say educators need to be prepared with an immediate response.
After the active shooter training, state police reminded school leaders of additional help now available to them.
Lawmakers recently approved grant funding for school resource officers. Applications for those grants are expected to be available later this summer.