Active resistance training for teachers aims to save lives in Montana school district
Sentinel High School | Missoula, MT
On Dec. 4, 1986 14-year-old Kristofer Hans entered the hallways of Fergus High School in Montana with his father’s pistol intending to kill his french teacher.
John Moffat, assistant principal at the time, heard the gunshot that killed substitute teacher Henrietta Smith and ran down the school hallway to determine the source of the sound. As he passed the gunman running the opposite direction, he was shot two times.
“I don’t think anyone gave any consideration to the idea that something like a school shooting could happen at a school,” Moffat said. ”It just wasn’t on the radar at that time.”
Although Moffat recovered, he said the fact that school shootings like the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 continue to happen more than thirty years later should serve as a wake-up call. Something needs to be done to improve school safety across the country.
“I think we just need some common sense,” he said, adding that he does not wish to outlaw all guns and “proactive, preventive measures” are the best way to avoid future tragedies like the one that took place in Fergus.
After Sandy Hook, the Missoula County Public School District implemented active resistance training for all teachers and school administrators as part of a new initiative to prioritize school safety and emergency preparedness. They brought in the Safariland Training Group to teach educators what to do during the 0 to 4 minutes it would take for police to respond in the event of a school shooting.
Safety and Security Officer for MCPS Mark Puddy said there are three basic tenets for dealing with an active threat: run or evacuate the building once a threat is identified; barricade with students inside a room; as a last resort, fight.
Each year, teachers learn techniques to work together, disarm and incapacitate an intruder.
“It’s a shift of philosophy for us to actually take action and not just hide,” said teacher Mike Thiel of Flathead High School, who participated in the training program in Fall 2014. “I think everybody in the state of Montana that teaches … should be exposed to this kind of training,” Thiel said.
Puddy said case studies show that those who merely hide in instances of active shooters often end up as victims. The MCPS program is designed to encourage teachers to rely on their training and survival instincts to do anything they can to protect themselves and their students.