Val Verde Unified School District (USD) of Perris, Calif., now has its own police department thanks to one-time director of safety and security, now Chief of Police Mark Clark, who has been honored with the Campus Safety K-12 Director of the Year Award.
Part of Clark’s duties include conducting active shooter training for staff and teachers at the district’s various campuses.
Val Verde Schools Prep to Respond to Active Shooters
Active shooter training has been held at all schools in the Val Verde Unified School District. Chief Mark Clark employs Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate (ALICE) training, which is a three-hour course. This is followed by a two-hour trauma care program and a barricading exercise where the teachers and staff encounter role-playing bad guys and must construct defenses against them. Clark says that ALICE does not teach hiding during an active shooter incident.
“If you have to hide, you have to incorporate barricading techniques — they must go hand in hand,” he states. “We’ve seen statistically that active shooters don’t break down doors.”
Because of this, another component of the active shooter defense is a Salto electronic lock system and a policy of keeping doors secured from the inside, all day. In the mornings or during class period changes, teachers stand at the classroom doors and hold them open while they greet incoming students. Once the door is closed, the teacher chooses whether to allow anyone else to enter.
Clark sees ongoing training as a necessity for an effective campus lockdown program.
“A lot of times, we’re just undertraining staff,” he observes. “We’ll do a fire drill once a month at an elementary school, but do an active shooter drill once every three years. It doesn’t make any sense. We have active shooters at schools continually happening.”
He also wants teachers and staff trained on using the PA system so that more than a few are capable of telling the rest of the school that a shooter is in the building and where that person may be headed. The district also uses an app called GroupMe to communicate with students and staff and will rely on it during any active shooter incident. Parents will be informed of an incident or lockdown through district-sent email that will be pushed out immediately.
The training also stresses the use of reunification places. Clark says that teachers were not seeing a difference between evacuation areas and reunification sites, the latter of which is aimed at getting students far from the shooter — for example, at a fire hall some blocks away.
“When you look at Columbine or Virginia Tech, where students stayed and didn’t fight or try to leave, they became victims. We train our staff to fight and get out of the area if possible,” Clark states.
Ann Longmore-Etheridge is a freelance writer with more than two decades of experience writing about private security and law enforcement issues.
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