Protecting local school children

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Local authorities look to latest mass shooting for insights

In the wake of the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students were killed and approximately 14 others wounded, law enforcement officials attending the monthly meeting of Barry-Lawrence Crime Stoppers reviewed what they knew of the situation.

In particular, Monett School Resource Office Jay Jastal, who took notes during the live coverage of the incident, noted how Florida law enforcement had some good strategies in place by having students bring their backpacks to a central location to drop them off before continuing to their designated location off campus.

"They have a choice to have students take [backpacks] with them or leave them in the class," Jastal said. "I wouldn't want to be the officer charged with clearing the backpacks left in the classroom."

Wheaton Police Chief Clint Danforth said some of the practices he has participated in previously have been unrealistic in their execution.

"We don't do that," Jastal said, inviting Danforth to observe their next active shooter scenario and offering tips on training and exercises that might prove helpful in improving the existing plan for Wheaton School District.

Danforth also inquired about classroom instruction on bullying, which he said was prevalent among younger students, and an issue he feels needs addressed.

Officials discussed a variety of upcoming exercises in which they plan to utilize some of the incident management techniques observed in the live coverage of the Parkland school evacuation.

"I've always urged students and teachers to lock their doors," Jastal said. "In one of the videos [of the Parkland, Fla. coverage], a student reported her classroom got the door locked, but the adjoining classroom did not, because she said they were all dead.

"We urge students to grab what they can and fight back. Shooters don't expect that. I know [when training with] the kids at Scott Tech, you have to be careful. They have all kinds of tools and knives over there, and they are prepared to fight back."

Jastal plans to incorporate some of the best practices he has observed into the district's own active shooter plan.

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