From Stuart Hutchinson, Former Administrator in HCPS:
In light of the recent tragedy that occurred in Las Vegas, and changes which schools have taken to reduce the casualty rate in active shooter situations, I recently contacted Mr. Benedetto, Chief of Security for Harford County Public Schools, to inquire about whether HCPS was also considering options which should be taken in an active shooter situation. For those of you who don’t know, HCPS has conditioned students and staff to lockdown and hope that the police will be able to save everyone in the building for the last eighteen years. In an ideal world we would all hope that the people who have weapons and are trained could save us from the horrible tragedies that occur almost weekly in our world. However, we must realize that the national response time for police in an active shooter situation is five to six minutes.
Before the police could respond to Sandy Hook Elementary the lives of twenty-six people were cut short. At Columbine the shooters were active for 8.5 minutes and at Virginia Tech. the shooter was active for eight minutes. Lives were lost and saved on these days depending on the response which people took to the active shooter. At Sandy Hook, they took the same approach as HCPS and children were killed while locked down in a restroom. At Columbine students waited for several minutes in the library before they were shot. Unfortunately, they all could have survived if they would have sought the nearest exit in the Columbine library. This is based on the 911 tape of these events, not on any form of speculation on my part.
So, why does HCPS continue to condition our children to sit and wait when they could exit through a door that may be in their classroom? Mr. Benedetto says that they are acting in accordance with local law enforcement to create a safe environment for our children. I believe that he is working with local law enforcement, but HCPS has turned a deadly ear to the fact that the Dept. of Homeland Security began advising schools in 2008 to “Get Out, Hide Out or Take Out.” The International Association of Chiefs of Police also followed suit in 2009 with recommending that schools should not have “a one size fits all plan.” They further recommended that “teachers should choose to lockdown or evacuate.” These recommendations were made over eight years ago and MSDE also defers to the FBI to make similar recommendations to schools in Maryland.
To ensure all readers that I’m not on an ill informed rant, you should know that I was an administrator in HCPS for seven years. I followed these outdated practices and wondered why would all lives be placed in jeopardy when an active shooter may only pose a danger to one area of the building. Maybe HCPS doesn’t want to broach the morbid reality that we are all vulnerable no matter where we are in public places. I’m sure that when “Shelter in Place” drills first originated schools didn’t want to worry people about the unexpected dangers of people dropping bombs on our heads. Shelter in place drills became commonplace. Fire drills have become commonplace and allow for flexibility based on where the danger lies, but in the worst case scenario of an active shooter, Mr. Benedetto and HCPS refuse to consider options such as evacuating, countering the intruder and barricading the entry to a classroom full of children. As a result, active shooters know our response and will prey on the eery quiet of a building that is put in lockdown and waiting for the police to respond.
I’ve made a plea to HCPS to reconsider, but it has been quickly rebuffed by Mr. Benedetto. Please join me in considering options for keeping our children safe at the next Harford County Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 23 at 6:30 PM.
Former Administrator in HCPS