A school district in rural Pennsylvania is making national headlines after their superintendent, Dr. David Helsel, announced that each of his school’s classrooms are being provided a 5-gallon bucket of river stones. If an active shooter or violent intruder enters the Blue Mountain School District facilities, he will be facing, “a room full of students ready to stone them.”
“How do leftists ever get this far in life without just falling down a hole or forgetting to take a breath?”
“This is part of the reason why I'm all for freedom of speech. How else are we supposed to figure out how dumb our politicians are?”
“What a moron! Where did he get his PhD, mail order?”
“Is this The Onion?”
So I may be asking for it by acknowledging this publicly, but I think the idea is a good one – though I would prefer larger rocks than river stones. Two important points that I shouldn’t have to stipulate, but sadly I feel like I must:
- Supporting student self-defense in an active shooter situation in no way serves as a substitute for improved school safety measures, including but not limited to more armed guards.
- My perspective on this is impacted heavily by a conservative worldview that believes strongly in the right of self-defense, and my 17 years teaching in a public high school classroom.
I was in college when Columbine happened and have seen in the subsequent years the evolution of school safety procedures in the event of active shooters and intruders. We’ve gone from a “turn the lights off, huddle in the corner, stay quiet, and wait for help” approach to a far more realistic and appropriate strategy that involves defense measures.
Most schools I’m aware of now subscribe to the ALICE method (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) for dealing with these events. Far too many school shootings have taught us a few things, the most significant being that active shooters are very rarely trained killers who are unfazed by resistance. They walk halls, enter cafeterias, libraries, and open spaces where they can move unfettered. They do not shoot through locked doors, don’t climb obstacles, and don’t waste time trying to play hide and seek.
Consider the recent shooting in Parkland as an example. The killer stalked the halls and didn’t even bother pushing open doors that were simply shut. It only makes sense then to respond to such intrusion with students trained to barricade doors with desks, chairs, and bookcases leaned outward in such a way that it would collapse on anyone trying to enter the room. With as rapidly as these events take place, it is highly unlikely that, unless a shooter was looking for a specific target, he would waste his time fighting through such mazes of clutter. He would simply move on looking for easier targets.
Supposing a shooter did breach a barricade and enter the room, standard school protocol is for students to turn anything in the classroom they can grab into a weapon – textbooks, iPads, laptops, chairs, maps, projectors – and pelt the intruder, aiming for his face. This is obviously far preferable to trying to hide under desks or in a corner. Overwhelm the enemy and do your best to subdue him.
In my school we don’t have buckets of rocks, but we are all told to have something that could be turned into missiles – cans of food are the most common suggestion. Some of us have other large objects that we’ve brought in and have sitting accessible should the need arise.
At this school in Pennsylvania it appears Dr. Hesel has passed on the chicken noodle soup and opted for river rocks. Good for him.
What is most perplexing to me is the opposition this idea seems to be receiving from fellow conservatives, many of whom have argued for arming teachers. I'm not opposed to that idea, but I'm confused why those advocating it would then bizarrely suggest that rocks held safely in a teacher’s cabinet are somehow too dangerous for school.
We conservatives mock the media for their ignorance in comparing the bullet speed of a revolver vs. an AR-15, rightly pointing out that a revolver can drop an assailant regardless of the speed it travels. But now we scoff at the notion that the speed of a thrown brick vs. an AR-15 makes this form of self-defense worthless?
I don’t get it. And maybe that’s because when I see those kids barricading the door of my classroom during a lockdown drill, I picture them, and I picture my own children in a real situation like that. If an intruder were to ever breach other security measures - even the best we can create - and barge into their classroom, I’m going to be glad if the superintendent has made sure he’s met by a hailstorm jagged stones. And I can't fathom why anyone who cares about kids wouldn't.