School Climate & Safety

News Clip Shows Students Disarming Shooters. Do Schools Teach That?

By Evie Blad — December 08, 2015 2 min read
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Fox News’ Fox & Friends morning show is getting some attention for an interview with a Krav Maga instructor who demonstrated how he teaches his teenage students to disarm school shooters. In the event of a school shooting, students should first try to escape or hide, the instructor said. But, if they are left with no other option, they can work together to fight back and disarm attackers, he added.

Is this really something students are learning in schools? Or is this just a clever way for a martial arts instructor to promote his classes?

The answers to those questions are “sort of” and “probably.”

Before I explain, you can watch the whole segment here.

In many schools, students learn the “run, hide, fight” approach.

While it’s unlikely that any public school is teaching its students martial arts specifically geared toward school shooters, some are including training on disarming techniques in their regular shooter drills. It’s an approach that has gathered criticism from many school safety experts, who say it is unrealistic and unproven.

Earlier this year, I wrote about an Alabama middle school that made national headlines when its principal asked students to keep canned goods in their desks to hurl at possible attackers. That principal sent a letter home to parents, asking them to send canned foods to school with their children after officials learned of a method of responding to school shooters called ALICE, which is an acronym and stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.”

I interviewed former school principal and ALICE creator Lisa Crane about that school for a January blog post:

While the school's plan to use canned goods is not a recommendation ALICE trainers make, it's not out of line with the approach, and it's not something they would discourage, Crane said. The school likely got the idea as part of the most controversial part of ALICE, the "counter" portion of the training, which teaches educators to work with students to distract a shooter and affect his or her shooting accuracy by making noise, and throwing classroom materials, she said. It's a technique used by police, who may use a non-lethal explosive to create chaos and interupt a shooting, Crane said. ... Crane couldn't name a school that had ever used the counter technique in a real active shooter situation. The six ALICE-trained schools that have used their training in intruder situations have all stopped short--relying instead on the more common approach of locking down classrooms, she said."

To be clear, ALICE trainers aren’t suggesting that students and teachers physically approach and fight intruders, but they are suggesting some level of confrontation. Crane says that step, called “counter,” is a last resort.

The idea has picked up traction elsewhere. School emergency guidelines released by the Obama administration in 2013 suggested that school employees try to fight an intruder when given no other choice. But, as an Education Week story about that guidance said, many safety experts say its a bad idea to train to fight school intruders, even if it’s adults who are being trained:

While the White House document says this should be done as a last resort, that message is easily lost, said Michael Dorn, the executive director of the Atlanta-based Safe Havens International, which advises schools on safety and emergency planning. In his experience, when school employees are given the idea that in rare circumstances, fighting or disarming a shooter is an option, it's the only thing that comes to mind for far less serious scenarios. In drills, school employees have become so focused on fighting a shooter they have forgotten to take the basic step of locking their classroom doors."

Further reading on school shootings and safety:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.