By Christopher Roberson
In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay outlined the various protocols that are in place to keep Lynnfield’s students safe. “In conjunction with the Lynnfield Police Department, we have made significant changes over the past few years in the area of security,” she said. “School security continues to be the number one priority in the Lynnfield Public Schools.”
One security measure was to assign Officer Patrick Curran as the full-time school resource officer. “This has been instrumental in helping us to be proactive with issues regarding our student body,” said Tremblay, adding that most of Curran’s time is spent at Lynnfield High School.
In addition, she said the district has partnered with a police information-sharing network called COPsync. “All of our teachers have the ability to directly contact authorities from their classrooms if there is a threat,” said Tremblay. She said that on one occasion, a teacher at Lynnfield Middle School accidently pressed the hidden emergency button, which triggered a police response in less than three minutes.
Tremblay also spoke about the district’s implementation of Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE). She said ALICE can be customized to respond to a myriad of situations. “ALICE does not necessarily flow step-by-step from alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate,” said Tremblay. “Each incident will dictate what may or may not be appropriate or useful to the person in harm’s way.”
In the event of emergency, Tremblay said, the caller should never use codes when speaking to the authorities. “The National Incident Management System forbids the use of code words,” she said. “Common language is essential, straightforward and direct.” From there, information would be broadcasted by a “designated person” over the school’s public address (PA) system.
“This is the right thing to do; knowledge and information are power and provide options to those in harm’s way,” said Tremblay. “Communication keeps the shooter off balance, constant real-time information is crucial in increasing survival chances.”
Tremblay said the person on the PA should also make a conscious effort to “intimidate the intruder” by announcing the shooter’s location and movements, which can be observed on camera. “If the intruder is aware and angry with movements being announced, he may fear cameras. Any time spent on cameras is time he is not killing kids,” she said. “If he attempts to shoot out cameras, he is expending his limited supply of ammunition, and it now can’t be used against the kids. Both of these are good things for the good guys.”
Although putting a school in lockdown is another “good starting point,” Tremblay said, it would take time for the police to enter the building. “Once a threat has been recognized and reported, the only way to call ‘all clear’ is for law enforcement to do so; this may be hours,” she said.
Should the shooter enter a classroom, Tremblay said, those in the room must do whatever is necessary to stay alive. This could include moving, creating a distraction by throwing objects or overwhelming the intruder’s central nervous system by screaming. “These are lifesaving techniques; we can’t afford to sit in the corner waiting for law enforcement to arrive and save the day,” she said. “History has shown more active shooters have been stopped by individual action than by law enforcement.”
Tremblay said she plans to train students and faculty on how to respond to such situations by conducting four drills each year.