Active-shooter training needed in new reality

The “active-shooter” training given to students and staff at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell was an important factor in containing the emotional and physical effects of this month’s school shooting — perhaps the most important one.

And as more districts sign up, it’s important to note the training can be even more “active,” giving staff and students exposure to ways in which a responsible, armed member of law enforcement acts to protect them in a crisis.

As Todd Gregory, security coordinator for Las Cruces schools, says, it’s the new reality that a school shooting is “going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.” And having safe exposure — driven by law enforcement — to a gun threat that goes beyond a protocol of shepherding students into classrooms and locking the doors would even better prepare all involved.

Though more realistic than the 1950s protocol of “duck and cover” in the case of a nuclear detonation, 2013’s herd-and-lock will not get everyone into a safe classroom. At Berrendo, the shooting happened in a crowded gym, and only the calm actions of a teacher got the suspect to put down what we now know was his emptied weapon.

Yet in Berrendo’s active-shooter training, as with other districts around the state, students and law enforcement training are kept distinctly separate. That’s because school officials don’t want students to see law enforcement moving around the school with guns drawn, even if those guns are empty.

Is it better to have their first exposure to a drawn weapon in school be courtesy of an unstable gunman?

The fact is many students are already exposed to their district’s armed police force. And the idea students will be shocked to see a cop with a gun discounts the important role law enforcement plays in society as well as today’s reality of ubiquitous exposure to violence, including video games that give points for shooting an opponent dead.

Las Cruces plans to include students and police in the same active-shooter training drills. That acknowledges the reality that active-shooter training is a required course in schools today and should be as realistic as safely possible.

That level of training ensures students and staff are aware not only of what could and should happen if someone pulls out a gun at school, but that someone is on their side to end things as quickly and safely as possible if they do.

— Albuquerque Journal