Saturday, October 3, 2015

GateHouse: School rampages are many, answers are few

Matthew T. Mangino
The GateHouse Media
October 2, 2015
A man opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday. News reports said that nine people were killed and another nine were injured in the shooting.
Whether it’s a public school, college or university, leaders in buildings and on campuses are required not only to educate but to protect. The latter responsibility has been complicated by the random, senseless, violent rampages that have plagued schools across the country. Educators, law enforcement and parents are looking for answers.
For students educated in a post-Columbine America, the idea that they must prepare for bad people who open fire in classrooms, school libraries and playgrounds has become routine, reported the Los Angeles Times several years ago.
The tragedies stretch from Umpqua to Newtown and are repeated in cities and towns from coast to coast. The response to these catastrophic events by police and educators has evolved over the years.
The U.S. Department of Education has promoted a tactic for teachers and students to deal with an active shooter —“Run, hide or fight.”
Studies of past school shootings show that students and staff who took action survived more than those who went into traditional lockdown and did nothing. In the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, most of the victims were shot in the library, where a teacher told students to get under desks and keep silent.
In the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, 30 people died in classrooms on one floor. Of those, 28 were in classrooms where students and instructors did not actively resist or try to escape the gunman. Other students and instructors saved lives by barricading doors or jumping out of windows.
In the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, survivors included students whose teachers barricaded doors, including the use of a filing cabinet, and kids who ran from classrooms, though some students were shot as they fled.
Unfortunately, mass shootings have gone beyond the schoolyard. In 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing shot into the audience with multiple firearms. Twelve people were killed and 70 others were injured.
This past June, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. During a prayer service, nine people were killed.
Run, hide or fight provides three options for dealing with an active shooter—run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide or “as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers and chairs.”
School leaders and law enforcement officials say fighting back empowers faculty, who fear they will be helpless if a shooter attacks their classroom.
“Why would you just lie there, and just wait to – and I hate to use these words, because it’s not sensitive – and wait to be killed when there are so many other options out there?” Sgt. Nancy Wilkey of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s told the Orange County Register. “If someone is trying to hurt you, why wouldn’t you fight for your life?”
The news accounts out of Oregon indicate that the killer was armed with at least four firearms. Fire extinguishers are no match for firearms, and policy makers nationwide should take heed of President Barack Obama’s comments: “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.”

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

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