A charter school in a rural region of Oregon conducted a “school shooting” incident last week, intended as a safety preparedness drill. While some teachers in the school found the exercise to be helpful, reaction in Idaho to the planned event has been overwhelmingly negative.
“This is a great example of what not to do,” Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, told IdahoReporter.com. During the course of a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, Hagedorn designed security plans for various military compounds throughout the country, and more recently has taken up the cause of school campus security in the Legislature. “This is absolutely not the way to go about things,” he said of the incident in Oregon.
According to a report in The Oregonian newspaper, two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns burst into the Pine Eagle Charter School in the rural town of Halfway last Friday. Students were at home for an in-service day, so the gunmen headed into a meeting room where teachers were gathered, and began opening fire.
After a few seconds, school staffers figured out that the “bullets” were actually blanks because they were not drawing blood from the intended “victims.”
Cammie DeCastro, school principal, commented that few of the staffers would have actually survived had the shooters been using real bullets, while teacher Morgan Gover acknowledged that she would have been hit several times. “I got a couple in the back and a couple in the front,” she told the Oregonian.
The report also noted that the school staff had recently undergone security training with their county sheriff’s department. Yet the teachers were not expecting the surprise “active shooter” exercise.
“Thankfully, nothing bad happened here as far as we can tell,” said Brent Regan, a trustee of the Coeur d’Alene School District. “What if one of the teachers had actually been in possession of a gun, or what if a teacher had a cardiac problem? I see a lot of risk in this exercise, but I don’t see what the value is here, and I don’t think I’d approve an action like this. This tactic raises a lot of questions.”
Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, shares some of Regan’s concerns. “What if one of the teachers had drawn a weapon and shot back?” she asked upon hearing the news. “It’s unclear to me what this was to have accomplished.”
Melissa McGrath, spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Education, said “As of now, we do not know all the details of the drill that took place in Halfway. We have always encouraged schools to be transparent about drills and keep parents and others as informed as possible. Having said that, this is one area that the state’s School Safety Task Force is studying closely, trying to find effective ways to conduct drills without causing trauma to students and school staff.”
During the last legislative session, Hagedorn promoted legislation that would have held elected county sheriffs and school board members accountable for creating and approving school security plans. The bill passed in the Senate but failed to make it through the House.
“I think this situation in Oregon illustrates why I drafted the bill the way I did,” Hagedorn told IdahoReporter.com. “Schools need to have a security plan created by security professionals, and then they need to stick to it.”
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Regan is a member of the foundation’s board of directors.