Burlington School District looks to adopt new shooting safety protocol

Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 12:23 AM EST
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The Burlington School District is looking at a new protocol to keep students safe in the event of a school shooting.

Officials held a forum Wednesday night to tell parents about the "Run, Hide, Fight" procedure they’re planning to adopt.

"Run, Hide, Fight" is a safety method that trains people on how to decide which of those three actions to take if they ever come face-to-face with a shooter. The protocol is: run when it’s safe to run, hide where it’s safe to hide and fight if you or others around you have no other options.

Superintendent Yaw Obeng thinks it’s more effective than other emergency drills and can increase survival.

“The difference between the ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ as opposed to the traditional sort of lockdown, the hold-and-secure procedure is that we’re looking for ways for survival before you kind of sit and hold yourself in place and wait for the police and rescue,” Obeng said. “The data in the experiences of active intruders has shown that groups that have taken matters into their own hands in terms of escape routes or looking for ways to protect themselves have a higher percentage of survival. ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ was highly recommended and was proven across the nation and so we thought we wanted to engage in this process.”

Parents had a lot of questions. One woman said the plan sounds vague. She asked whether and how children will be trained.

Russ Elek, the school district’s communication specialist, responded by saying they’re only planning to train faculty this year. He says they haven’t decided yet when to extend the training to students or which age groups will be taught.

“We’ve heard from people on our safety team and our board-- start at middle school. We’ve heard start at high school. We’ve heard start when they’re seniors. So, I feel like there are lots of people in our district who have opinions about that,” Elek told the group.

Some parents were happy to hear their children will not be trained.

“I worry that this kind of training could make my daughter feel a sense of trauma and be afraid to go to school because she might fear that something that’s very unlikely to happen is going to happen. So, I just don’t really want her to be exposed to that kind of information,” said Ken Allen, who has a fifth-grader in the school district. “I just don’t really feel like there’s a place for a fifth grader to stand up to a person with a gun in a way that’s going to make any difference.”

Other parents questioned if ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ is the best way to maximize safety during a school shooting. Chris Cadieus suggested the school district set up security cameras.

“Maybe we can set up the teachers’ computers at their desks to be like, ‘Here’s the video of where this guy is. Don’t go that way.’ You can’t do that unless you can see the shooter. You can’t do that unless you have cameras. You're not going to put somebody out there to go look at the shooter,” Cadieus said.

Obeng says the teachers will be taught how to decide which method is best for the students and will then lead them through the process.

“The teachers are the best people to communicate with their students because they know them, they trust them. The first stage is to instruct the staff in the building -- the administrators and the teachers. They’ll work together to support the students in terms of what’s the appropriate action, similar to what we’ve done for many years in terms of emergency procedures,” Obeng said. “It’s always the teachers who are guiding the students in terms of this is what you do in this situation and this is how you do it, so we’re approaching it the same way.”

The school district says it has been working with a team of nationally recognized school safety specialists for months on implementing "Run, Hide, Fight" in Burlington schools.

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