Teachers participate in active assailant training


Graphic by Alex Silber.

By Meera Dahiya

Teachers participated in mandatory active assailant training Monday to learn how to respond to a potential school shooting using “lockdown with options.” This new county method instructs teachers to assess a dangerous scenario and make individual decisions about how to keep students safe such as exiting the classroom or rushing into another classroom. In previous lockdown drills, the county required teachers to instruct students to crouch under desks or huddle in a corner of the classroom.

“In this day and age, school shootings have become a big problem that we want to address,” assistant principal Rainer Kulenkampff said. “The policy of lockdown with options is proven to be the best practice for keeping students safe.”

Kulenkampff, staff development teacher Anne Chiasson and school resource officer Dana Shoup led the training sessions in a rolling staff meeting throughout the day. They demonstrated how to respond to different scenarios involving an active assailant. For example, if a shooter is in the hallway outside of a classroom and there is a door to the outside in the classroom, then students should exit the school.

Chemistry teacher Sean Reid said he thinks it’s safer to give teachers more flexibility in dangerous situations.

“It’s common sense to make it clear that there is no one right answer when the stakes are so high,” Reid said. “It liberates us to use our brains and takes restrictions off so that we can act in the best interest of our students.”

Spanish teacher Kathleen Bartels said talking about the possibility of a school shooting scared her but was necessary.

“It was terrifying,” Bartels said. “But it’s good to have someone put into words that if you, as an adult, feel like you have better chances of keeping your students safe by running outside instead of staying put, then do it. It was validating.”

Security personnel and Whitman’s school resource officer will have the same responsibilities in a “lockdown with options” as they did in a typical lockdown; security officers will walk around the building to make sure all of the students are safe, and the school resource officer will pursue the shooter, Shoup said.

MCPS requires all teachers to be trained for situations with an active assailant as of this fall, and the county provided all of the instructional materials Kulenkampff, Chiasson and Shoup used.

Teachers will inform students about the new safety procedures with a PowerPoint presentation in extended second period classes Dec. 11.