Teachers and staffers use their training to evacuate the school after mock armed intruder began shooting. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
A group of 60 Washington County schoolteachers are likely the first in the country to receive armed intruder training to learn how to protect students and themselves in the event of a school shooting event here.
The training, an eight-hour teacher in-service, came through sheriff’s officers, who learned the multi-faceted program techniques in April from a Florida-based group that developed them.
Sheriff Ed Graybeal and Director of Schools Ron Dykes worked together to bring the training to Washington County, according to Lt. Doug Gregg.
“It’s going to be a thing for this county and this school system. It’s an initial project ... we’re the first county in Tennessee and probably across the country that’s utilized it and put into place and taught it,” he said. “It’s just a good way to save some lives. If it saves one life, it’s worth every penny spent on it.”
Gregg said the first line of defense in a school shooting or armed intruder situation is “to run away. We don’t want to have worry about running and locking down, we want to get out of the building and the danger zone. The second option is locking down,” if you can’t get out the door, he said. “It’s a different way of thinking for school systems, which usually have a policy of going into a lockdown mode.”
That’s exactly what Clarinda Whitson, a county schools guidance counselor, said.
She’s involved with school kids of all ages everyday and realizes the need for the training.
“They’re putting a new spin on it. It’s really eye-opening. We’re used to doing a lockdown drill, which means we’re staying in our room, not moving about. They’re teaching us more to get away from the building, away from the shooter, get away from the danger,” Whitson said.
“They’re also teaching us some minor first aid so we know what to do until help can get there, and even some tactical skills of how to take down a fighter if we had to do that. It’s different from what we’ve ever been told or trained in the past.”
Whitson said prior to Monday’s training, she couldn’t imagine having the ability to do the skills she learned.
“I feel more comfortable now doing these skills. Previously there’s no way I would have attempted this,” she said.
Assistant Director of Schools James Murphy said the school system is committed to providing the best training for its teachers and the safest learning environment for its students.