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Teachers now flock to active shooter training. Can we do more to prevent school shootings?


The AJC has a sobering package this weekend on school safety that's worth your time.

AJC education reporter Rose French has an excellent MyAJC.com story on heightened security efforts in Georgia schools. French cites a recent active shooter training seminar in Cobb attended by 800 educators who were taught to “Avoid, Deny and Defend."

Police told the crowd that 20 of the 32 people killed during the 2007 Virginia Tech attack were shot lying in the fetal position and said the chances of survival are better if you fight back. They recommended: Move away from the source of the threat as quickly as possible, create barriers to prevent or slow down the threat and use any objects at your disposal as possible weapons, such as fire extinguishers, to fight off attackers.

“We just want to encourage them that if this situation happens, don’t just die. There is something you can do,” said Marietta police officer Brittany Wallace. “If there’s an active shooter, it doesn’t mean it’s all over.

There is also a fascinating essay in the AJC on preventing school shootings by Dewey G. Cornell, who holds the Bunker Chair in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and directs the Virginia Youth Violence Project.

In his piece, which you can read here in full, Cornell reports there are 84,000 nonfatal injuries and 33,000 deaths every year involving guns, which breaks down to 320 shootings and 90 deaths every day.

But, despite those high numbers, Cornell says school shootings remain rare:

According to FBI crime statistics, most homicides, including most multi-victim homicides, occur in homes, not schools. Children are almost 100 times more likely to be murdered outside of school than at school. Restaurants have 10 times more shootings than schools, yet there has been no demand for arming waitpersons or conducting restaurant shooting drills.

He encourages the use of a prevention practice called threat assessment, which he says can be conducted for students in schools as well as individuals in the community. Cornell notes:

In response to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia legislation mandated that its public schools implement threat assessment teams. Nearly 2,000 Virginia public schools now have multidisciplinary threat assessment teams composed of educators, mental health professionals and law enforcement officers who investigate student threats of violence. The focus of these teams is to identify troubled individuals, assess the seriousness of their threatening statements or behavior, and respond with appropriate interventions. The response can range from counseling to incarceration.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.