PITTSBURG — Crawford County schools are more prepared to deal with an active shooter, following training Thursday.
Hammers, staplers, books and pencils were just some of the items Mike McCracken, director of the Pittsburg State University’s Police Department, said to use as projectiles in the case of an active shooter entering a classroom.
McCracken, along with Cpt. Danny Smith of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, spoke to over 50 educators and college students during an active shooter training session at a lecture hall in Pittsburg State University’s Kansas Technology Center on Thursday.
The training, which started before the Christmas break and continues through the week, teaches people to forgo the previously accepted notion to hide.
“It’s a system that hopefully empowers people to do something that will increase their survivability,” McCracken said. “When you (hide) you are not doing anything to protect yourself, you are basically a sitting duck, a target.”
Molly Barrows, a secretary at Frontenac middle school, learned how to attack firsthand. Barrows, along with half a dozen others, were given nerf balls to throw at Prof. Steve Schaffner as he barged into the lecture room with a blue, plastic handgun replica.
“I saw him first,” Schaffner said, pointing to someone who had a nerf ball. “Then, a lot of stuff flying at me.”
Barrows and Courtney Koenig, a secretary at Frontenac High School, said the training was informative and “empowering.”
“I thought it was informational because we will be the first people when someone comes through the door,” Barrows said. “I have more information on what I should do.”
“I was thinking, ‘OK, I have this stuff on my desk I could throw at somebody,”’ Koenig said.
The training, called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), teaches the steps to create distance from an active shooter and give everyone more time.
It still requires locking the door, but also reinforcing the lock in some innovative ways.
“If (PSU President) Dr. Steve Scott shows up at your door knocking, saying, ‘It’s Dr. Scott, let me in there is a shooter out here,’” McCracken said. “Sorry Dr. Scott.”
His point was that Scott could be being held at gunpoint, and opening the door would put more lives in danger.
If a gunman does breach the door, ALICE teaches everyone to “swarm” the attacker.
Barrows and Koenig took part in this example, tackling Prof. James Otter to the floor.
The entire demonstration lasted a few hours. The university started ALICE training before winter break. They had two active training seminars on Thursday, and will have another at the College of Business on Friday.
“We would far rather be prepared for something that never happens then not be prepared if it did happen,” said Dr. Bruce Dallman, dean at College of Technology.
The first ALICE training at PSU was given to students in the College of Education in spring 2015.
“The (local) school districts have been doing that training, so we felt that it was important that our teacher candidates also have that training before they were out of the (College of Education),” said Dr. Jean Dockers, director of teacher education at PSU.
K-12 ALICE training in the county began in fall 2014. The teachers then conveyed the premise to their students.
“We let the teachers do it, it’s their job, they understand the best way to communicate the age level they are dealing with and they can make it age appropriate, but still get the information to them,” McCracken said.
There are 14 officers in the county — four at PSU — certified in ALICE training. University police and the sheriff’s office have partnered together to conduct training at all educational institutions.
“The main purpose for ALICE started out to be for K-12 setting,” McCracken said “But it’s applicable to everybody. We wanted to be focused on getting (K-12 done) then start working on the college from there.”
No particular event sparked the ALICE initiative, McCraken said, but the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut which left 20 students and six teachers dead was a big turning point.
“There may not be more (school shootings) than there used to be, but people are more aware because they are better covered in the media,” he said.
Worth noting, is the fact that statewide all higher educational institutions will be required to allow concealed carry on campus as of July 1, 2017. Colleges can trump the law by installing metal detectors at all entrances on campus, although it is not cost-effective.
“I think we would be doing it regardless of the whole thing going on” McCracken said, referring to the law.
McCraken believes the law will make his job more difficult in a worst case scenario.
“It will be harder to identify who the bad guy is in a crisis,” he said. “That will be the hardest thing for us.”
For more information about ALICE visit www.alicetraining.com.
— Michael Stavola is a staff writer at The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MichaelStavola1.