Home > Uncategorized > Another School Shooting in California, Another Predictable Reaction, Another Reason to Control Weapons Sales

Another School Shooting in California, Another Predictable Reaction, Another Reason to Control Weapons Sales

I read several reports on the most recent case of a gunman opening fire on innocent children who were attending school, including this one in USA Today describing the heroism of the head custodian at the school under fire and the prompt action taken by teachers to shelter their students and this NYTimes article detailing the man who did the shooting. Here’s a description of how the shooting at the school happened:

Just before 8 a.m., the gunman, who was armed with at least a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, first shot a woman near his home with whom he had a continuing dispute. But the remaining victims were shot at random, the authorities said, as he fired at people walking on the streets, driving in their cars and sitting in their homes.

This individual shooter was bent on engaging and killing people at random,” Mr. Johnston said.

Coy Ferreira said he was one of a group of terrified people who took shelter inside Rancho Tehama School, the elementary school, where bullets crashed through the window of the classroom he was in, wounding a boy. “There was gunshots going for a good 25 minutes,” he told KRCR, a television station.

This shooting incident has changed my thinking on school safety to a degree. It has convinced me that every school in the nation should be required to develop plans for sheltering students in the case of an active shooter and to have at least annual drills on the implementation of those plans. Rancho Tehama, where this shooting took place, is a rural and geographically isolated small town in California. It is the kind of place where a school shooting seems like a remote possibility. The kind of community where training small children children to learn how to react to a school shooting seems like an over-reaction. But every report on the Rancho Tehama shooting made the same point: if not for the prompt and effective response of the teachers and school staff many more lives would have been lost. And while the articles did not say so explicitly, I know from my experience as a school administrator that the staff’s response was the result of training on emergency protocols developed by the staff with assistance from local law enforcement officials and emergency responders and the State Department of Education.

Developing protocols to deal with emergencies is a time consuming process and implementing them requires teamwork within the school and between the school and local law enforcement and emergency responders. The financial cost of developing these protocols is minimal. In our region the individuals responsible for their development and implementation often write the plans and review them during their work time. School districts can use frameworks developed at their respective State Departments and draw on the expertise of consultants who can offer workshops for administrators and teachers. In many communities in our region the police and fire departments will convene weekend sessions involving school administrators to conduct exercises on how they might respond to emergencies like train or truck accidents that involve chemical spills, dire weather emergencies, and, nowadays, school shootings.

While the financial cost for developing these protocols is relatively minimal, the emotional costs are high. When school children and teachers conduct drills that require them to lock down a school because a shooter is potentially lurking outside, it makes children fearful. Indeed, inculcating a fear of random shooters is an implicit part of these sheltering drills in the same way that inculcating a fear of fire is an implicit part of fire drills.

The Rancho Tehama shootings make it clear to me that we need to accept the trade off that this incident teaches: as long as we are unwilling to restrict the access to weapons in this country we need to inculcate a fear of gunmen in our children and temper that fear by assuring them that we have a means of keeping them safe should a shooter select their school as a target.

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