MOUNT GILEAD — More than 100 Mount Gilead teachers and school district staff hunkered down in classrooms.
In the high school, middle school and elementary buildings to experience scenarios where an active shooter would enter their building. The training took place on Presidents Day when students were out of school.
“Fear was the first thing I felt when I heard the pop, pop, pop of gunfire in the hall,” said teacher’s aide Diana Kemp.
Kemp was in a classroom where an injured victim fell against their door. They pulled him into the room and thought they had the door shut tight with a chair, not realizing that the chair unlocked the doorknob. The shooter was able to open it far enough to stick in his rifle and shoot.
“I thought, ‘if this were real, we would all be killed,’” Kemp said. The ammunition was all blank casings, but the sound was very real and made the heart beat faster.
That classroom scenario was one of several staged by officers from the Mount Gilead, Cardington and Galion Police, Sheriff’s Deputies, and other law enforcement agencies. They created situations that gave teachers and school administrators a feel of what it would be like to have a shooter in their halls.
Greg Perry, Marion Technical College Director of Law and Criminal Justice, lead the debriefing sessions and organized the training. Perry said he was pleased to see how much the teachers had learned and how much more awareness they had gained by the end of the day.
Perry said that one of the goals of the training is “stress inoculation.” The guns don’t have live ammunition, but the simulated situations are stressful and prepare teachers and staff in case of a real shooter who would enter the building.
There are four points that Perry hopes the teachers will absorb. They are mindset, tactics, skills and gear.
Perry said the most important is mindset of using the resources they have on hand to be safe. He said they do some work on tactics, skills and gear, but emphasized that mindset is most important.
Middle School teacher Danielle Bault said she came to realize by the end of the day, how important and crucial barricading the classroom door is. That came up in every scenario and made a big difference in blocking a shooter’s access.
Elementary teacher Mandy Rocks said the day was really important and gave her a lot to think about. She said she will be thinking about things she can do and ways she can react in her own classroom.
“I’m really proud of our teachers,” said High School Principal Deb Clauss. “It gave me goosebumps to see how well they handled situations. They were completely engaged in this training the entire day.”
Mount Gilead Police Chief Brian Zerman said the day was also good training for police.
“Unfortunately, in this day we need to be prepared,” Zerman said. “We can only hope and pray we never need to use it.”