As a workplace security consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention, what I do with the Client must create sustainability long after I am gone. Organizational resources must be considered when developing training content. The need to be as realistic must not outweigh the organization’s capabilities to sustain the effort.
School and workplace violence response strategies and tactics are important but at what expense? Should the “training approach” to active shooter be one designed around the means justifies the end or around creating the best retentive value around the execution of thoughtful programming that encourages and promotes quality training objectives?
Should those involved be traumatizing students, staff and workers for the purpose of making training as realistic as possible? According to the research the facts are not clear. In the 25 plus years I have been exposed to workplace violence and workplace violence prevention, it’s been my intentional desire to create training that stimulated learning and motivated retention of the content based on mutually collaborative experiences. The idea is to design training with organizational effectiveness in mind.
A recent “active shooter” drill in Indiana made my skin crawl. As someone who came from a military and law enforcement background, I was horrified to discover that local law enforcement officers told teachers to kneel along a wall while they were shot execution style with plastic bullets trying to demonstrate reality.
This is exactly what happens when corporate leaders and school superintendents fail to involve themselves in the decision-making process while leaving it up to others to decide what’s good for your school or workplace environments. Any role I may play as a security consultant must be predicated on organizational input and desired outcomes.
For example, how may reading this blog have been instructed on management responsibilities, prolonged lockdown issues, special needs and family support preparation considerations and planning related to an active shooter? Probably a few, maybe! You know why? Simply because there is a lack of experience based and knowledge centered training and consulting taking place today more than ever without specific facts.
In my interest to give the active shooter training challenge credibility and perspective, I am always seeking to find professionals with a unique and thoughtful education and learning methodology that serves to create understanding and responsible actions.
In some instances schools are already described as prison comps by students, teachers and parents as environments that expose students to other risks, say parents who speak under anonymity. I don’t say eliminate the training but rather suggest that such training be thoughtful and deliberate.
This issue of my blog highlights the efforts of Guest Blogger Rachel Tepfer Copeland and her child’s experience during a preschool lock down exercise. You must know that my blogs often attracts direct phone calls from interested readers and concerned victims, witnesses and observers who have value to add, offer support and their services.
Rachel Tepher Copeland a Certified Child Life Specialist struck me as the type of guest blog contributor I desire to collaborate with because of the value and lessons that can be learned from such experiences, if we are to be a part of the solution in supporting the need for quality active shooter and lock down training moving forward.
Such training should not exploit the school or the workplace’s fears. It’s my opinion that active shooter drills marginally, if at all improve safety of teachers, students and workers, while exposing them to mental trauma and physical injury. The decision to bring in local police trainers or to hire the expert consultant should be predicated on past performance, knowledge of content, delivery capability and desired outcomes. There are states like Iowa, Florida and South Carolina and others interested in passing laws requiring these drills in public schools. I agree with the training need but disagree with the mandate for a variety of reasons implied and addressed in this blog.
Here’s Rachel Tepher Copeland and her preshooler’s experience for your information.
One afternoon I went to pick up my son from preschool and he was very obviously shaken and upset. A generally chatty guy, I was concerned when he had a difficult time telling me what had happened.
The most I could gather was that the class had played a strange game where the children had hidden in the dark behind backpacks. Then it dawned on me, it was a lock-down drill. The more questions I asked my son, the more concerned I became. We quickly turned the car around and headed back to speak with the preschool director of the highly vetted private preschool he attended.
After further conversation, I found that my son had become scared, overwhelmed and upset during the drill because he did not know or understand what was happening. He did not feel comfortable hiding with the class in the tight quarters and became upset. In an effort to make him more comfortable, the teachers removed him from the bathroom and placed him, alone, in the darkened classroom.
He was told to hide behind a backpack located right next to the large window and to stay there until someone came back for him. Then the teachers went back inside the bathroom with the other children and locked the door. I was furious. I was heartbroken. But more than anything, I was scared.
As a Certified Child Life Specialist since 2004, my job has always been to talk to children about scary and overwhelming situations and make them easier to understand. Reading books to children is an amazing way to take something terrifying and make it relatable, especially for the very young. Social stories are one of my favorite means of preparing children for difficult situations. I love social stories because they are perfect for children of any ability, as they are a positive, empowering story written in first person language, which encourages and empowers children to learn new difficult skills.
After my son’s horrific experience, I searched everywhere for a book with easy to understand directions that would be appropriate for my son to learn about lock-downs and how to keep himself safe. However, no matter where I looked, I could only find books for much older children.
There was nothing age appropriate or all-encompassing in a social story format. Additionally, all of the resources I found discussed option-based teaching (i.e. run, hide, fight).
While these are sometimes successful options for adults, options-based teaching is neither developmentally appropriate nor feasible for young children or children with special needs.
After searching the market and finding it bare, I decided to write my own book for my son. Originally, I created a single copy of the book I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown just for him, however, after another major school shooting occurred only miles from our home, I decided to self-publish it and make it available to anyone who might also find it helpful.
I Can Be A Superhero During A Lockdown is now an Amazon best seller and has been endorsed by several safety organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools and Safe Havens Interventional.
I am proud to have created a resource that helps to decrease anxiety while also teaching children of all developmental abilities how to remain safe. My website, RachelTepferCopeland.com , also provides tips and information for parents and educators about lockdowns.
My son is very proud of the book we have created- in fact the main character is a cartoon replica of him. He no longer has issues during lockdowns and was able to complete a drill successfully without any problems.
Many children, however, are not as lucky. While necessary, lockdown drills themselves cause trauma to young children—the recent viral picture of a child with a goodbye note written on her arm to her parents only one example.
As educators, parents, safety professionals, and professionals that work with children, we need to remember that providing age appropriate and child-friendly information to children about what to expect and how to respond is respectful of children, their feelings and needs.
To ignore the situation, to assume that it is just like other drills that children complete regularly or to compare it to duck and cover drills of more seasoned parents’ youth is not the same.
A recent Washington Post report revealed that during the 2017-2018 school year alone, over 4.1 million children enduring a lock-down drill. Over 220,000 of those children were in pre-school and kindergarten. We have the choice of either preparing our children in advance or dealing with the after affects of the trauma they suffer.
I’ve chosen to preemptively prepare my child and to teach him what to do if he was to ever face a true active situation. We all have a choice to make. We can either sit around and read about the horrific things that are happening in our company and wonder “when are things going to change? When is somebody going to do something about that?!”
Or we can each realize that we ARE somebody. Teaching young children how to keep themselves safe while decreasing anxiety is something that you can do right now. And there’s no day better than the present to make a difference, and maybe even save some lives.
It’s my opinion as a workplace security management consultant specializing in workplace violence prevention that students and employees should not be exposed to physical or traumatic injury just to create a training reality. Such training should be tied to the organizational prevention strategy that takes all of the related issues into consideration as life survival immediate protective measures.
They should be designed to educate and prepare those involved to respond appropriately in a way that empowers them to react with a measured sense of command and control of their situation. A dad of a middle schooler told me that his son told him that it made no sense to run back to his classroom when it made more sense to exit through the nearby doors.