Casper teachers learn proactive measures in case of shooting scenario


Vickie Skates, an employee of the Natrona County School District, stood in an elementary school hallway Friday holding a plastic pistol.

The airsoft gun had been loaded with 15 caps, and she intended to use them all.

"Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown," a voice boomed from the loudspeakers.

Skates stormed down the hall, through the classroom door and opened fire. Her targets were easy.

The teachers, nurses and other school employees were huddled against the back wall of the unlit classroom like sitting ducks. An air horn blasted with each shot, simulating live rounds.

"Safety, safety, safety," the same voice boomed.

Not even 2 minutes later, the drill was over. The lights were turned back on, and Phil Crouch, a former Mills Police Department lieutenant and the group's instructor for the day, stood before them.

Even though the group followed lockdown procedure — they shut the door, turned off the lights and got to the wall farthest from the windows — all 26 adults in the room would have been killed had it been real, he told them.

Then came another scenario: The adults were allowed to leave the building. More people survived.

Then another: They could leave, and they were handed red rubber balls to throw at the shooter. Even more people survived.

The final scenario: When the shooter came into the room, the group pounced, putting to action a technique they had learned earlier that afternoon. People were shot, but nobody would have been killed, Crouch told them.

The scenarios were part of a four-hour training session Friday at Willard Elementary School that taught district employees how to take a more proactive approach to protect themselves and their students in the unlikely event of a shooting.

The training, which came from the ALICE Training Institute, had a mantra.

"Run if you can. Hide if you can. Fight if you have to," the group repeated out loud at different points in the day.

Andrea Nester, the risk manager for the district, delivered the training session to about 55 school district employees in the school's gym.

Nester, a West Point graduate with 13 years of active-duty Army experience, said that a proactive approach is statistically more successful in saving lives than a passive approach like what has traditionally been used during lockdown drills.

She said that drill came from Los Angeles, where students would shut blinds and doors and get away from windows to protect themselves from drive-by shooters.

Now that the number of active shooting incidents has more than doubled in the past seven years, she said, citing FBI statistics, schools are need better policy.

That's why she's advocating for districtwide training.

The program received preliminary approval from the district at the beginning of the year. So far, Nester has trained at CY Middle School, Mills Elementary, Paradise Valley Elementary and Casper College.

The next step is to train students. She said the sessions for students aren't as intense. The training consists of an assembly, a video and some book work. She said there are plans to train the first group of students in March.

Angie Hayes, the principal at Willard, said 100 percent of her staff was interested in bringing Friday's lessons to the school. Teaching the students is the next step, but she wants more information about the program first.

"Our No. 1 concern is not scaring kids," she said.

Originally posted February 13, 2015 by Casper Star-Tribune