School Mass Shooting Viewpoint: Dayspring Christian Academy
By Weston Kurtz, Executive Director
Demographics: Suburban Colorado school. Three hundred ninety students. Early education through 12th grade. Non-denominational independent school. Stand-alone campus.
1. What kind of feedback have you received from parents and how has that driven some of the school's thinking/responses?
We haven't received a lot of direct feedback from parents in regard to recent school shootings. However, one of the top questions that people ask on school tours is: "How safe is the school and what kinds of measures do you have in place to protect our children?"
2. What is the school's viewpoint on or response to mass school shootings (pedagogical/theological/philosophical responses)?
School shootings are a result of the decay of morality in our culture. At the base they are simply evil and being influenced by Satan. My personal opinion is they have been increasing due to the increased violence in culture as seen in our video games and media, coupled with a lack of intentional parenting. There are other factors such as mental illness, depression, and anxiety that have also become a contributing factor to the problem. The problem is not an "access to guns" problem, as the media and politicians would have us believe. The problem is deeper and embedded in the psyche of many who no longer value human life. Some have lost their moral compass due to these reasons mentioned above.
3. What measures is the school taking to address concerns over safety and a potential mass shooting (practical repsonses/actions taken)?
After the Sandy Hook shootings in December of 2012, our board and administration took a hard look at the safety of our school. We hired an outside firm to come in and evaluate our school from a safety standpoint. This very extensive audit led us to take some practical steps:
- We established only one entrance to the school campus that was locked and monitored by an employee at all times during the school day. Essentially our campus is in "lock out" at all times. This required the purchase of door hardware systems that run on times systems of open and closing.
- We added exterior cameras to our facility.
- We added a safety film from 3M to the windows of our front doors so they could not be broken out and the door opened from the outside.
- We added deadbolts to all of our interior doors so that they can be quickly locked in an emergency.
- We set up ongoing training practices for our staff to prepare for an active shooter or distressed student situation. We follow the "I Love You Guys" protocols (see www.iloveyouguys.org).
- We armed key personnel with weapons to protect the school in case of a hostile situation. This training is significant and ongoing. We use an outside firm that is led by a former Navy Seal who is familiar with tactical firearms training. We have not armed our teachers as they have a primary responsibility to shepherd students to safety in their classrooms.
- We have partnered with our local law enforcement officials to learn their best practices.
- We have not publicized any of this outwardly to our community, but have instead communicated in a low-key, one-on-one basis to those people who may inquire about our safety protocols.
- We have continuously prayed for the protection of our students and faculty on campus.
There are no foolproof plans to prepare a school for this type of situation, however, there are many steps that can be taken to make sure you are more prepared in case of an emergency.
Post Script—Follow up Q & A on the decision to arm staff.
Q: You have a line in your earlier comments about making the decision not to arm teachers since they have a different role. Would you expand that line of thought?
A: In a situation with an active shooter, the teachers' primary role is to make sure all of their students are safely locked inside a classroom. They are not to be engaging a threat. They need to lead and shepherd the students through a stressful situation and that needs to be their focus. Others who are not directly responsible for the students in the classroom can engage the threat.
Q: What has been your experience with arming staff now that you've done it for some time?
A: It is not for everyone. A person has to have the physical and mental ability to handle a weapon in conflict. Ongoing training is critical from both a weapon proficiency standpoint and also from a mental standpoint. We complete annual active shooter training with Simunition rounds (think paintball) which can more accurately reflect a live scenario.
Q: What should admins know or think about going into this—what would you want to share with a school considering the same option your school took?
A: They need to count the cost and weigh the pros and cons for their constituents. Ongoing vigilance and training take time and money to be effective. You will need the full support of your leadership (e.g, board or elders). Hiring and outside firm that can assess your campus from a security standpoint is a best practice.
Q: What did you insurance provider think? Did the school have to seek out additional insurance coverage for those you are arming?
A: Our insurance provider covers this as a normal course of business. Be sure to ask this question as things can and do change from year to year.
Q: How have you worked with local law enforcement to know who is a friendly and who isn't in an emergency situation?
A: This is very difficult in an actual situation. Honestly, this is one of my biggest concerns as we are not in uniform. We have recently purchased a "sash" that can be worn if we are engaging in a real life threat that would alert the officers that we are "good guys." We have spoken with local law enforcement and they know that we are armed in our school.
Q: What type of training do you run your staff through before they can carry or have access to a weapon on campus?
A: There are multiple classes that must be taken, approximately 40 hours of training on the front end. In addition, there are quarterly practice-round sessions, annual active-shooter trainings. It is also important not to forget to equip your staff on how to react and their primary responsibilities. They may be the first line of defense to notice when a student is behaving in an unusual manner.
Q: What procedures have you instituted for those who are armed?
A: One of the key protocols is that the weapon must be concealed on the person or locked in a biometric safe (i.e., a finger print is required). This is a big deal as we don't want to have weapons "laying around" that could create a different kind of risk or threat. People who carry are trained in when it is an appropriate time to show or use force.
Q: Did you choose to share widely with your school families or keep it more on a need-to-know basis? Why or how did you make that decision?
A: We decided to keep this on a need-to-know basis for a couple of reasons. First, not everyone will agree with your policy no matter what you choose. Guns in schools are a confrontational subject. Second, for the safety of the people carrying, we don't want students, parents, or others to know who might have access to a weapon. If a parent has questions, they are directed to the head of school or to our security director (who also has a couple other roles in the school).
Editor's note—Considerations regarding arming someone in your school:
ACSI is not recommending what your school should do, but here are some key aspects to consider.
- You must check your state and local laws. SOme states only allow firearms if they are being carried by law enforcement.
- Conduct a thorough background check on the person and update it regularly, about every three years.
- Verify that the person has the proper weapons and security training; the less he or she is trained, the greater the risk of liability to the school. Further, arming staff is just one part of an overall plan and the school should invest in crisis planning and training.
- Be sure that whoever you allow to do this is emotionally balanced.
- Confer with your local law enforcement and get input and advice (they may give some insight for numbers 1 and 3). Local police should also be conferred with so that if something were to happen at your school authorities are aware of armed staff on premises and ideally have already worked with you to have an easily and visibly identifiable way to tell who those staff are. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood your armed staff will be mistaken for the threat and shot.
- Check with your insurance company regarding liability and coverage.
- You may want to consider less-than-lethal options such as pepper or mace sprays and stun guns. Note, these may be regulated and treated the same as firearms in your state.
Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to te subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.
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