Staff Gets Active Shooter Training

Dony Cartrette

Dony Cartrette

After Columbine we were in disbelief.  After Sandy Hook we were devastated.  After Stoneman-Douglas we were done.  Principal Estrella began Wednesday, February 28th’s Professional Development with Sahuaro staff by stating that while this certainly was not the first school shooting, it seemed different.  We can longer be complacent, and we need a plan.  He then introduced Dony Cartrette, TUSD’s School Safety Emergency Manager who served as a Marine for five years and then spent the next 25 years working in five different penitentiaries before joining TUSD.  Dony, as he asked to be called, had much to say as he spoke to the office staff, custodians, support staff, and teachers.

First off, some words of reassurance.  Not TUSD nor all of Tucson has ever had a school shooting.  Once, in 1992 there was a drive by at Desert View HS after school hours – so that doesn’t count.  But then the reality.  Dony stated, “Teachers, you are ground zero.  The actions you take will either save lives or lose lives.”  Now here’s another fact Dony swore by: “There has never been a teacher or a student killed in a locked classroom in the United States.” He even dared us to google it.

Dony went on to discuss “situation awareness”  – basically being aware of what is happening and having the ability to make decisions.  For example, in case of an active shooter and you’re on the football field, stay low and run off campus. If you can’t get into a locked room, hide in a bathroom stall and stand on the seat.  Turn your phone to silent – not vibrate – and if necessary, make sure you are not seen nor heard.  If you are running out of the school and law enforcement is outside, take off your backpack – leave it behind, and put your hands up so they can continue to search for shooters.

Most importantly, studies show that 90% of school attackers are known by friends – possibly an ex-student or ex-partner.  Teachers definitely need to foster strong relationships with students and students need to trust the adults on this campus with information that could thwart a potential plan.  Promptly report threats. Statements made such as: “Don’t come to school tomorrow” should be reported.  Teachers were told, “During a lockdown, don’t ignore emails.  A soft lockdown (police activity in the area so teachers lock doors and no passes given but continue to teach) can rapidly turn into a hard lockdown (turn off lights and sit quietly out of sight as the threat is physically on campus).  The best way to communicate is via email in this scenario.”

On an end note, the general consensus was more confidence that both TUSD and Sahuaro understand the gravity of “this time” and are moving to make clear and positive changes.  Mr. Estrella discussed plans of getting magnets or belts so the rooms would be easier and faster to lock and having more practice drills.  A security guard has been re-installed at the parking lot entrance.  He asked the staff for a list of questions and concerns and will be addressing all of them. To end on a more positive note, Dony stated, “On Valentine’s Day 36,000 High Schools were open with more than 40 million students.  School statistically is the safest place for a child to be.”