By Billy Stitz
There was little, if anything the people of Flandreau could have done to prevent the horrible mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, but the Flandreau Police Department wants everyone to know that they are prepared if the unthinkable would happen here.
That dark Friday, after word had gotten out globally that 26 people, including 20 six to seven year-old elementary students were murdered, Flandreau Police Sergeant Jess Doyle, met with Flandreau Public School Principals to discuss, review and re-do the policies at FPS to make sure they are up to date and will work in case of emergency.
“It is obviously on everybody’s (in the community) mind and I truly believe that people are starting to think that, yes, it can happen here,” said Sergeant Doyle.
Flandreau Public has had a plan of action for such events for quite a few years now, but admittedly has not practiced them in quite some time. That will change starting when the holiday break is over. School Administrators, Principals, School Board members and members of the Flandreau Police Department will meet after the first of the year to discuss some updated changes that could be made to the “violent intruder policy.”
Despite not having practiced, or drilled, for a violent intruder for some time, Flandreau parents should have a sense of security knowing that FPS has a School Resource Officer (SRO) on hand all day, and is always armed. Darin Sinner is that SRO and has been attending training sessions for these types of events since he became an officer.
When Flandreau first implemented the SRO program, there were some people around the community that thought it was unnecessary for a school that size to have an SRO - that is not the case after Newtown.
“Officer Sinner has had more compliments and thanks for what he does than he ever had before that tragic day,” Sergeant Doyle said.
For those of you that are still concerned that there is an Officer in the school with a gun, hopefully this can give you a sense of security. In a study by Economist John Lott, every public shooting involving three or more deaths since 1950, with only one exception, the 2011 shooting in Tuscon, AZ, involving Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, has happened where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. SRO Sinner can protect those who are unprotected. He is a walkie-talkie away from calling in backup, and is fully trained on what to do in case of an emergency.
Not only is Sinner prepared but Flandreau also has a Special Response Team - made up of members of both the Police Department and the Sheriff’s office. The team practices regularly on what to do in case of an emergency, and has trained for all types of attacks and intruders.
What is the Police Department doing to try and prevent an attack before they have to use their training? They are addressing at-risk students more and more everyday, and have for some time. For instance, if an officer responds to a domestic dispute on a Wednesday night, that officer can relay the message to SRO Sinner and he can make sure the child is at ease on Thursday, and they can keep an eye out for the student. The opposite also applies. If a student is acting up at school or believes they are being unfairly graded, Sinner can relay that message to his department and they can make sure everything is okay at home.
Where most schools, including Flandreau, have a ‘lockdown’ drill in place in which students and teachers lock the door and hide in the darkest, furthest away corner until the intruder leaves, some schools around the country are adopting a new plan.
A.L.i.C.E, or Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is a new program created by Greg Crane. A.L.i.C.E teaches students how to read and react to every situation, and in essence perform self-defense. Students are taught how to distract the shooter using objects in the classroom, control the shooter using their body weight, how to properly barricade a door and how to interact with the responding police officers and evacuate when it is safe to do so.
The right choice for each school is based on the opinion of the school’s administration but Sergeant Doyle believes lockdowns are a bit outdated.
“There is a time and place for lockdowns but in the case of an active shooter, I don’t think that is the right time,” Doyle said about the situation.
He would like to see a plan where students could safely evacuate the building as opposed to staying stationary targets, sort of like a fire drill.
“Put it this way, if there was a fire in your school, would you stay in the building and risk injury or death, or would you evacuate? That is why you do not see children dying in school fires anymore, because we practice fire evacuation drills.”
No matter the decision the two parties make when they meet this month, the Flandreau Police Department, and the School, will be making sure they continue to provide the children of Flandreau with a safe and secure place to learn. And if there ever is a problem, they are prepared to handle it.