In this day and age, gun violence in schools is a harsh reality. Unfortunately, teachers and administrators need to be as prepared for school-shooting emergencies as they are for fires and tornadoes. And the best partner in this preparation is law enforcement.
The Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) and Ohio Department of Education have collaborated on a new course, Active Shooter Training for Educators. It makes educators and peace officers aware of the common risk factors of potential school shooters and the phases a shooter often experiences leading up to a shooting.
Offerings of the four-hour course, which is open to educators and law enforcement, are set for:
Jan. 31: Hamilton County ESC, 8 a.m. – noon and 1–5 p.m.
Feb. 7: Athens Meigs ESC, 8 a.m.–noon and 1–4:30 p.m.
Feb. 12: ESC of Lake Erie West, Toledo, 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m.
Feb. 25: Cuyahoga County ESC, 8 a.m. – noon and 1 – 5 p.m.
Feb. 27: Capital University, Ruff Learning Center, 8 a.m. – noon
For proper credit, law enforcement should register for the courses at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral/OPOTA
, where additional offerings will be listed as they are scheduled. Teachers should register through the Ohio Department of Education website.
Law enforcement officers are encouraged to attend the course with their local teachers and administrators or, at a minimum, relay this information to school personnel.
Many school districts don’t have resource officers, so local peace officers should stop by the schools on their beat to get to know the administrators and teachers. It’s important to build a relationship with educators so you can work together on preventing a school-shooting crisis. The process starts with officers knowing how to help prepare educators.
Officers should know the typical characteristics or “risk factors” of a potential school shooter:
Troubled home life, possibly including abuse
Psychotropic drug use or abuse
Mental health issues
Poor academic performance
On the social fringe, “loners,” bullied
Frequent episodes of anger
Obviously these risk factors aren’t absolutes for labeling someone a potential school shooter, but they are indicators of a person who might be prone to commit school gun violence. The student may show more specific indicators, such as displaying violent fantasies through writings, drawings, or reading material and having an unusual fascination with weapons.
Law enforcement should share these risk factors with educators and keep an open line of communication with the schools. In learning from past tragedies, officers have discovered that many teachers saw these risk factors in a shooting suspect and could have conveyed this to police. If they’re aware of these risk factors, educators may be more likely to report traits they’ve witnessed in a student.
Peace officers also should know the five phases that school shooters typically go through leading up to a shooting — the fantasy, planning, preparation, approach, and implementation phases. With this knowledge, law enforcement can make teachers and school administrators aware of possible warning signs.
It also is vital for officers to prepare themselves mentally for what they could encounter if called on to respond to an active school shooting. Prepare yourself to respond quickly in hopes of minimizing the casualties and psychological trauma that can follow such tragic experiences.
Morgan A. Linn
Assistant Attorney General and Legal Analyst