My friend, a gifted and intellectual writer, a former police officer, and now retired high school teacher wrote this feature for the periodic newsletter of the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance (WMSA). If you are a client of mine and follow my website, you likely know that I have long been a proponent of hardening the soft targets that our public schools and churches present. This brings it home. – Dick Hime, Raymore Outdoor Sports LLC
Written up to level 3, (there is no 4), of the termination process 13 May 2015, and on double un-secret probation, I went to work this past year with the threat of termination hanging over my head every single day. I was a model prisoner finally making it to the front gates that swung open 23 May, 2016 allowing me walk out a free man. Insults and injuries continued even during the span of my final year.
For example on my very last day as a teacher, the SocialIST studies department supervisor and his stooge placed a large “homemade” poster on the in and outside of my classroom door featuring Chuck Connors from the television series, “Branded,” having the buttons and patches torn off his uniform drumming him out of the military in disgrace. Laughing they left my room saying their plans included giving me a broken sword as well. But that was not on my mind. Stepping out into the light I was fearing no man, no insult.
The next day, two good friends Mike and Jo, spirited me out of town as their retirement gift to me. We went to Springfield and points south. Later we stopped at a Wal Mart in Branson. I approached its doors offering a silent prayer my shot records were up to date and that they allowed entry to customers without tattoos or sleeveless Harley Davidson T-shirts. Browsing the music section, I found the best of Kool and the Gang. Taking my prize to check-out I encountered a small blonde girl in her early 20s. She held my purchase up over her head and the following conversation ensued:
“What’s this?” she said in an angry tone.
“A CD” I replied.
She studied it for a moment and then said, “Who is Kool and the Gang?”
“A musical group” I answered.
“Never heard of them” she said dismissively and then scanned it.
“You should listen to them. They’re pretty good.” I responded.
“Nope, I listen to AC/DC, heavy metal. You probably wouldn’t like what I listen to”
and then she rattled off a list of groups I never heard of.
“I’m not familiar with them” I said.
“Emo-Screamo music” she spat out.
“What the world needs, more angry violent music” I said and walked away.
Later that evening, Mike and Jo took me to a concert by #1Hit60s, a group reprising music from the 50s and 60s. They were fantastic. The group explained they sang songs from a time when music was happy, innocent, and revolved around young romance. A boy and girl meet and exchange smiles. They sit down and talk for a while. And then they have their first date, hold hands, and fall in love. As I listened to the songs, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Wal Mart check-out girl (Sara?) as well as a country that can’t figure out which bathroom to use. What happened to mess up this country so badly? A skit by the group featured a teacher played by one of the singers, an attractive redhead. After the show I parlayed my very recent retirement as a shameless excuse to introduce myself and flirt with, I mean compliment, Gretchen…the singer. Am I talking “out of school” with what comes next? I don’t suppose when one learns the secret strategies public schools employ to repel armed attackers any advantage will be afforded potential “active shooters” and terrorists. Keep in mind I’m addressing the problems of school preparedness from the vantage point of one who was a deputy sheriff and later police officer trained in dynamic breach assault (barricaded suspects), counter- terrorist assault, and hostage negotiation. I’d be the first to concede my previous training does not render me knowledgeable but maybe I have a little insight as to what might or might not work in cases of attacks on schools.
On 3 November 2015 myself and more than a hundred other teachers, many if not most of whom never held a gun, were herded into the school’s lecture hall for training on repelling attacks from terrorists and “active shooters.” Students had the day off. Trainers included local police officers, teachers, and administrators trained in the new techniques and strategies. Previous methods consisted hiding in one’s classroom with the kids waiting to be saved or shot. Finally, I thought, we are going to get serious about fighting back. I scanned the room for racks with hangers of body armor, boxes bulging with concussion grenades and tear-gas canisters, AR15s, and pistols to be assigned to various teachers. But there were none.
Presenters began with an effort to frighten teachers claiming school shootings had been on the upswing for some time and we were all in peril. While teachers’ brows furrowed in fear nodding in unison at the alarming statistics, I was thinking, “Hey, wait a minute, this is not true at all. Research has already demonstrated the converse to be true.” 11 I mentioned this to teachers brave enough to sit near me but no one listened. They absorbed the indoctrinational deception and misleading, if not bogus, statistics uncritically. Training turned to learning how to tie knots sailors must have used in the days of great-masted ships. Because government fire-codes prohibit doors that open in, classrooms no longer can be barricaded. The solution is to tie complex knots securing the door handle to a desk or chair. As the bad guys shoot their way into a classroom and yank on the door, it is supposed to bring the desk or chair with it blocking their entry. Each teacher was handed a black string-like cord and told to practice tying the knots we needed to defeat the bad guys.
Did anyone ask how panicked teachers were supposed to tie complex knots while terrorists were shooting at them with AK-47s through flimsy doors? Nope. Several did ask what to do if the bad guys defeated these Gordian-knots anyway and a teacher sitting near me suggested we grab the barrel of the AK-47, while fired full auto, or the handgun, and take it away from and subdue the “shooter.” Teachers on both sides of me agreed heartily this was a good idea, this from people who have never touched a firearm. My jaw dropped as far as stunned disbelieving tendons would allow. Was I really hearing this? I waited for the Trainers to explain the folly of such a move…but no one did. Imagine what would happen if terrorists or crazed killers shooting their way into a classroom, high on mayhem and bloodlust, had a math or art teacher grab the barrel of their hot lead-spitting gun. And then it got worse.
Hands went up, suppose somehow the bad guys still manage to defeat the deftly tied cords and barrel grabbing hands, what then? According to the Trainers, we were stop the bad guys in their tracks by hurling staplers, books, and other items in their faces and then rush and take their guns away. If I was thunderstruck in disbelief at what I heard before, this strategy truly chilled my blood. I found myself hoping and praying I retired before any such attack occurred. As the training “progressed,” we were told if such an attack on the school occurred, and our particular classroom was not in the direct line of fire, it would be hours before the police could get to us. We would have to remain in lockdown stuck in our respective classrooms while police cleared the school room by room. And what about those needing to go potty? We were told students could make a curtain with shirts, jackets, and hoodies (teens wear all of the above year round regardless of the season) providing privacy for girls while they relieved themselves in classroom trashcans. At that point I wanted to jump up and yell, why not give us the tools to fight back and kick some @$$! With armed cadres of ex-military and trained teachers we could open up a serious can of whoop-@$$ on the bad guys instead of hiding in the dark behind hoodies peeing on our shoes. But I bit my tongue, double-probation, step three…
While mentally digesting the insanity of what I was hearing, it was announced next up, role-playing scenarios finalizing the training. Groups of teachers were assigned areas of the school to mill about until a signal over the PA system announced an active shooter lockdown. When it sounded we were to run for the closest classroom, pile in, use our black magical cords to tie Houdini-defying knots, and hide until the all-clear was given. Trainers, both teachers and police, role-playing as bad guys, would try to defeat our knots and gain entry. If they did, they would shoot us with CO2 guns, a paintball pistol sans paint ball. The CO2 cartridge administers a harmless puff. At that point several female teachers near me became visibly upset. Trainers noticing their discomfort asked what was wrong and they explained how scared they were of the role playing exercise and the CO2 pistols. Are you kidding, I thought. This is acting, role-playing, it is nothing more than grown-up hide- and-go- seek and these teachers are practically falling apart? My gosh, what would they do come face to face with the real deal? After soothing words of reassurance, the scared agreed to play along.
It wasn’t long before the group I was milling about with in the lobby of B-building, near the SocialIST Studies wing, heard the scramble alert over the PA system. We ran for Joe’s room, and, as I arrived, several teachers were shutting the door in my face. Forcing my way in, and angry at their craven behavior, I made no attempt to hide. Colleagues tied a knot that was defeated in seconds by the “bad-guys” who burst into the room and shot me right away. I didn’t care. In a real life situation, I wouldn’t have followed the herd anyway. I never do. Sure, the bad guys would have seen me peel off going up the stairs or down another hall, that’s always been my play in previous police training scenarios but the bad guy’s economy of action and time typically compel them to follow the mass, the herd, leaving me to escape and mount a counterattack from a more advantageous position. At the very least, you’d think these teachers learned this in snow-ball battles growing up. For the next scenario, each teacher was given a handful of practice golf-balls, essentially small hollow orange Whiffle balls, simulating staplers and books, to throw at the bad guys if they defeated the magical cords. Once again the scramble alert, mad dash for Joe’s room, frenzied search by the herd for hiding places, throwing the orange Whiffle balls at the bad guys who defeated the knots, and teachers being shot by the CO2 pistol. For round-three I had had enough, made no attempt to get to the room before the door was slammed in my face, and was “shot” again. What would happen to the kids we were supposed to protect if such an alarm was sounded and kids didn’t make it to the door in time? Instead of a hysterical stampede, what if some of us were drawing down on the bad-guys with a SIG or a Glock?
Debriefing followed hide-and- go-seek filling me with even more concern. A significant number of teachers, mostly female, allowed how much better they felt having been trained. They no longer felt like helpless victims against armed attackers because now they knew how to fight back. With magical knots and whiffle balls?! Are you kidding me? Several reiterated their plans to grab the barrels of the bad guy’s gun and take him down. Are they nuts? Our training was feel-good smoke and mirrors designed to make teachers believe they had been effectively trained and equipped to repel and defeat would-be terrorists and students gone berserk. My “lead” (department supervisor) and several teachers said I had been a cop and wanted my assessment. I declined, step three, double probation, but they insisted so I said, “We’re all going to die.” They laughed thinking I was joking. I wasn’t laughing. Follow-up to the training came in the form of an evaluation from Central Office. Me tell the truth? Step three, double probation… I ignored the survey.
But it came again demanding a response. Very carefully I pointed out that the only way to resist armed attackers was by armed resisters. The old “You don’t take a knife to a gunfight” cliché. I hit submit but there was no response. After all, I’m a conservative, a “right-winger,” and our opinions are not welcome in public education. Those brave or foolish enough to tell the emperor he has no clothes get squashed. Lest anyone presume this deplorable state of affairs is endemic to one school rather than systematic to public schools in general, an employee of the Blue Springs School District related that a cafeteria worker was told to retrieve a can of peas from the store room. He/she began to heft a huge food-stamp- family sized can and was told not to touch cans stacked by the door. They were part of the school’s cafeteria terrorist/active shooter counter response. If bad guys assault the cafeteria, lunch ladies are supposed to heft and hurl these massive cans at the guys with AK-47s. See, instead of armed cadres of teachers and professionals to resist attackers, all anyone needs to do is grab a can of peas or Chef Boyardee ravioli and take the bad guys down.
Bottom Line? Are your children any safer at school today than they were before terrorism and crazed Columbine-kids came on the scene in America? If tying doors shut with cords and throwing staplers and books at bad guys slows them down, and SWAT is on the scene, at the same door, and at the same time as the bad guys, yes, they are better off. But if you answered no to any of the above, then no, they are not any safer. Nothing has changed. They wait to be saved or shot. Also, and no one wanted to address this question; are kids and educators better or worse off if teachers have been given a dangerous false sense of security, taught they can take down armed attackers by throwing staplers and grabbing gun barrels and they really believe this will work? One problem with supreme belief in fantasy is, one fails to consider feasible alternatives.
Back to the bottom-line; public school systems are unwilling to face the reality they have done nothing to equip schools to defend kids and lack the courage to level with parents. This they cannot do because of the liberal mindset dominating public education’s ‘leadership,’ which rejects notions of self-defense in favor of unmanly sheep-like behavior. Schools teach kids that “violence never solves anything.” It was the famous Colonel Jeff Cooper that said; “One bleeding heart type asked me in a recent interview if I didn’t agree that ‘violence begets violence.’ I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure– -and in some cases I have– -that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.” 22 In addition, if an innocent kid is assaulted by a bully at school and defends himself, both are suspended. The good kids are not allowed to defend themselves. How then can anyone expect kids or teachers to fight back?
Training and preparation don’t really matter because what is done is based on the assumption “it won’t happen here” so who cares if it is a joke? What does it matter? They are correct of course as long as it’s true it won’t happen here. But what if they’re wrong? Expect a bloody massacre with many of our precious children dying because of the cowardice of those who are their would-be shepherds…
Larry “Lorenzo” Swickard