How to Defend Your Classroom and Protect Your Students from a Shooter

It sickens me to no end that I even need to share this information about how to protect your students from a shooter, but I feel compelled to. If you’re a teacher looking for an active shooter classroom defense system without the back story, scroll down for my materials list. But I think the public really needs to know how unprepared schools are, so I’m sharing the background first.

The Backstory

I started my adult life as a teacher in a Title I high school. When I walked into my first classroom in the early 1990’s, the first thing I noticed is that the classroom door did not lock from the inside. In the event of an emergency, I’d need to open my door and step outside in order to lock it. I thought that was asinine and requested a handle that locked from the inside. Thirty years later, that campus shuffled teacher room assignments, and my husband was assigned to that very same classroom. Guess what? The door was newer, but the lock was situated the exact same way – a teacher would need to step into the hallway in order to lock the door.

For the last nearly three decades, my husband has kept his classroom door locked despite the daily complaints from students who were annoyed that they needed to knock and wait for entry into the classroom. When school shootings started to become “a thing” several years back, the complaints subsided.

My husband reported back to school on August 3rd this year. Students were returning on August 10th. On Friday, August 5th, his campus held an active shooter training for their faculty and staff. District law enforcement did not have a specific plan other than, “Our response time is three minutes.” Every single teacher’s question was answered with, “We’ll get back to you on that.” At one point, an officer stated that they’ll walk the campus after that training to assess the campus.

ARE YOU F@%K!#G KIDDING ME? The Uvalde School shooting at Robb Elementary took place only one hour away on May 24, 2022, and on August 5, you still don’t have a plan and have not yet walked the campus to check things out?

The only question they answered clearly was this:

Teacher: What should we do if a shooter breaches our room?

Police officer: Grab the gun.

At that point, my husband noted that the body language of the entire audience deflated. Each one of the 150 people in that room knew they – and their students – were dead.

I have never cursed in a public post, so forgive my earlier lapse. But perhaps that will help you understand the desperate and frightening situation in which teachers are placed. They are supposed to defend children against gunfire despite the inadequate training and preparation of the law enforcement team that is supposed to do exactly that.

My husband and I have both been through firearms training, but we both know that in our location, it is illegal for anyone – including teachers – to possess weapons of any type in a classroom, so there aren’t any weapons my husband can store in his closet to defend and protect his students.

We hosted a retired law enforcement officer for lunch and asked him for help in preparing for the worst. Between his advice and that of some other tactical experts, we came up with this plan. It’s pretty flimsy, but it’s better than nothing.

Emergency Supplies to Defend the Classroom

  1. 4 cans of wasp spray
  2. 3 goggles
  3. Hammer
  4. Screwdriver
  5. Phone list

These are stored in a plastic bin in his closet, so either he or a student can grab all of these at one time. Here’s how they’ll be used:

Phone List – I researched every nearby law enforcement agency and appropriate district office that could be contacted and typed them on a list numbered 1-8. All of the pertinent information the students would need to give to the dispatcher is listed at the top of the sheet, so they can just read it. (When you’re under duress, you might not be able to think straight and remember these details.) The phone numbers are on a numbered list, so students can quickly divide up the list to call by number instead of needing to remember the agency. (“I’ll take #1!” “I’ll take #2!” etc.) There are four copies of the list so they can be spread around the room. Need a template? Download mine right here. Just be sure to fill in your law enforcement agency names and phone numbers.

Wasp Spray – This can be shot from 25 feet away, so you can temporarily blind (or at least majorly distract) a shooter who enters the room. These cans will be tossed to four different students to spray at the shooter. Anyone not holding a can of wasp spray will be instructed to throw whatever they can at the shooter to create additional confusion. That shooter entered the classroom to do harm, so everyone may as well fight like hell to prevent that from happening. This is the wasp spray in our kit.

Goggles – My husband will be first in line to tackle the intruder. In order to help protect his eyes from the wasp spray so he can see what he’s doing, he’ll wear goggles. Should any other students volunteer to help, there are two additional pairs of goggles. These are the goggles I purchased.

Hammer and Screwdriver – If my husband feels that it’s safer to get the kids out through the windows than shelter in place in the classroom, he’ll use these tools to bust and pry open the geothermal shields that are covering them. If they shelter in place, these tools become additional weapons.

 

We also researched bulletproof vests. A Level IV grade with multi-hit rated protection is needed to stop the type of bullets that have been fired in recent mass shootings. That type of tactical gear starts at around $500. I know you can’t put a price on someone’s life, but that was a little out of budget range, so we opted instead for a 10×12 plate of the same rating that we’ll place in an old backpack that my husband can wear backwards to cover his chest and abdomen. We bought this plate from Shellback Tactical for $205, which included tax and shipping. (Keep scrolling to find out about how Shellback Tactical responded. You will not believe what happened!!)

 

If you are not shaking your head in disbelief that this has become my husband’s back-to-school kit, then we have been numbed into thinking that this is how it should be now.

It shouldn’t.

I have never before been politically active, but you can bet I’m advocating for more protection for students and teachers. No more focus groups. No more grandstanding from politicians. No more “we’re putting a plan together.” If you’re a teacher, request that your school district police department present their plan and their plan for you in the event of an active shooter situation. If they’ve already done this, THANK THEM! If they haven’t yet done it, demand it.

In addition to that, ask campus officials what procedures they have in place:

*to identify and follow up with students exhibiting signs of mental health distress (the majority of shooters in schools are students or former students)

*an outreach contact for students to reach for when they self-identify has had challenges with which they need help

*to secure and protect the campus before, during and after school (one monitored entrance/exit for visitors from open to close, operational keyed or keypad entry for staff at alternate entrances, swipe badges for each student to enter campus, clear bags, full time campus resource officer, etc.)

*to secure and protect each individual classroom (locks on the inside of the door, emergency call button or phone line, “legal” weapons, exit strategy if shooter is not nearby, instructions for specific actions students and teachers can take to shelter in place)

*trainings that don’t offer contradictory information (“stop the bleed” training at my husband’s campus instructed teachers to run down the hallway to get the one emergency kit in that wing, then run back to the classroom; active shooter training instructed teachers to stay in place and wait for the police, even though that’s what they did in Uvalde and look what happened)

What’s not on my list? A first aid kit. The weapons that have been used in school shootings often don’t leave survivors because the bullets tear up the human body. The babies who were killed in Uvalde had to be identified by DNA because many of them were unrecognizable. Do you think this is too graphic? Well, that’s what happens in school shootings, and that’s why you need to take action…so you and your community never, ever have to experience this.

Godspeed.

[Addendum] The Shellback Tactical Response

The good people at Shellback Tactical restored my faith in humanity. In the “comments” section of my order, I mentioned that this order is for my husband, a teacher, and requested that if they have any classroom defense tips to please include them. When the shipment arrived, we opened up the box and found this hand-written note:

Shellback Tactical handwritten note support teachers

This brought tears to my eyes. To think they don’t even know us from a hill of beans, and they sent us tactical gear that could save my husband’s and the students’ lives…incredible! Even if we never need to purchase tactical gear again, you can bet that I will be a lifelong supporter of Shellback Tactical.

I emailed a note of thanks for going waaaaay above and beyond, and this was the response from Ken:

“Helene, 
 
I am glad we could help!!! 
 
Our team saw the order notes and decided to go above and beyond. The majority of us have young kids in school so the order notes hit close to home. 
 
Educators have a special place in our hearts.  They teach our children and also protect them from evil. We all know educators don’t get paid enough, they do their job because they love it. Anything we can do to help educators, we do. 
 
Thank you for what you do.

 
If you need anything, just let us know…. 
 
Love – Shellback Tactical Team 

Ken Hayes

 

W.O.W. These people are incredible! They did more in one order for a stranger than an entire administrative team did for their staff and students. Obviously, Shellback Tactical can’t afford to give out gifts like this to the entire United States, but I’m thinking you might be able to work out some kind of educator special for your hallway or department. Like I said, I’m their fan for life and will continue to thank them by spreading the word.

About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead? The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits. Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

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