Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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3 Forgotten Benefits to a Lockdown

ripplesA single action seldom produces a single outcome.

Just the opposite. In most things in life, there are numerous benefits that come from completing a task or taking positive action. We just tend to focus on the main and most obvious benefit while overlooking the many other and sometimes lesser goods that come from one positive action.

A student turns in a homework assignment. The main outcome is that he or she has competed the task and that’s a good thing. However, when we think about all the other complementary benefits provided by that single action, it suddenly takes on a different meaning—a better and deeper meaning.

The student followed the instructions, committed to taking purposeful action, chose to give up their personal time, worked diligently, and completed the task in a satisfactory manner and in the designated time. How do we know all of this happened? Because the teacher marked the main outcome as successful.

I don’t know of any employees that are looking for people to complete homework, but there are millions of great jobs waiting for people who possess the skills necessary to complete homework. The ability to follow instructions, take purposeful actions, give up personal time, work diligently…is a desperately needed skill.

While I may not be a fan of lots of homework, I am a huge fan of the complementary benefits that come from completing homework. Especially if we remember that there is so much more that can be gained from doing homework than just turning it in and getting a grade.

When it comes to lockdowns, I’m afraid that we’ve done the same thing.

We’re focusing on one outcome (and it’s a great outcome) while not fully appreciating the other complementary benefits that come from our teachers being able to quickly and effectively perform a lockdown. While there are many benefits, I’m going to just focus on the following three most valuable benefits to consider.

1. Ending the School Attack

The primary purpose of a lockdown is to save lives and limit physical harm by removing or blocking the intended victims from the attacker. This concept is an incredibly old and extremely effective strategy.

There are many who criticize our lockdown procedures, but they take a very narrow view and lack real understanding of the public schools. Don’t listen to them.

The Secret Service implements this same strategy by removing the president or blocking him with their bodies. They perform a mobile lockdown.

Image result for secret service protecting president shots

The military implements this same strategy in war zones and on bases across the world when they put up checkpoints to remove and block offenders from gaining access. They lockdown their people.

Image result for military check point gates base

The real difference between what they do in a lockdown and what we do in the schools is that 1) they practice it until it’s perfect and 2) their lockdown is not solely defensive but also offensive.

In regards to the first, we’ll never match their perfection because we don’t and never will have the same amount of time to devote to training. However, that should never be an excuse for not adequately preparing our people to be successful in a school attack. When it comes to being prepared, some is better than none but more is better than less.

The real difference is that we only treat a lockdown as a defensive measure.

We forget and therefore don’t train our teachers that a lockdown is by its very nature, also an offensive action. Teachers are not only saving lives and reducing physical harm, but are also in a very real way helping (fighting) to end the school attack. The faster and more effectively that they can remove and block themselves and their students from the attacker, the quicker the attack will end because they have helped the entire school to regain the initiative from the attacker.

The attacker begins the violence—he has the initiative. We must respond to him. Our teachers go into an immediate lockdown and now he must respond to us—we have taken back the initiative.

Our lockdowns, if accomplished quickly and effectively, will also clear the halls, isolate the attacker, and assist law enforcement to identify and stop the threat. The moment we regain the initiative, the attack is minutes or even seconds from ending. Therefore, a lockdown is a defensive and offensive action.

barricade

2. Everybody Fights
Very few people physically fight an attacker. This is true whether the attack occurs at a mall, movie theater, club, business, place of worship, or public schools. Most people will not do it and while we can certainly train a person to act differently, that’s not the problem. The problem is that we only consider fighting to be fighting if it is physical and because 99% of our people will not do it, we’re handicapping our teachers with a wrong and harmful perspective.

Teachers who go into a lockdown are fighting. They’re fighting for their lives, the lives of their students, and because we also know that a lockdown is an offensive action, teachers therefore are also fighting for every other teacher and student in the building and not simply those in the same classroom.

They’re also fighting for the officers responding to the attack by clearing the halls and isolating the attacker. Like all great teams for fight for eachother!

The better a teacher can perform a lockdown the more effective their ability to fight the attacker. Please remind your teachers that hiding is a form of fighting, running is a form of fighting, surviving is a form of fight.

barricade
(screenshot from our ACT FAST professional Development)

3. Reduced Fear
In my life, I have seen CPR performed twice. While it’s an easy skill, there is nothing easy about watching it being performed. Each time I was the third person to arrive so I missed having to assist. After the second time, I can honestly say that I’m afraid that one day I’ll have to do it on my own. It is a real fear I carry, but it’s a small fear because I know how to do CPR.

Teachers are afraid of school attacks. We can lessen that real fear by preparing them to be able to quickly and effectively conduct a lockdown as well as how and when to initiate the run, hide, fight strategies. While we cannot control everything that happens, we can certainly influence the level of fear our teachers are experiencing. With that lower level of fear comes a higher quality of life for our teachers.

Every chance you get, remind your teachers that a great lockdown is also an offensive strategy because it helps to end the school attack. Also, remind them that everybody fights in a crisis and that a lockdown is a form of fighting—fighting for their lives, the lives of the students, fellow teachers, and police officers responding to the attack.

When we remind one another of these additional benefits, it will help us to be more prepared and less afraid.

Who doesn’t want that?

There’s a couple of ways I’d like to help…

1. Free Resources:
There’s a free lockdown video for teachers that can be used during a staff meeting as well as other free information on the website that you can use.

Please use them!

2. ACT FAST: Online Professional Development for Teachers:
act fast

Instead of taking the teacher out of the classroom, bring the classroom to the teacher. This online professional development can be watched at each teacher’s convenience.

The course is less than four hours long and shows teachers when and how to implement the same simple techniques that countless others have used to survive a school attack. The first 35 schools and districts that sign up now, receive a discount on the registration fee as well as 2 free seats per school to any of our live trainings.

3. Train-the trainer live course.
This 2 day training equips participants to teach ACT FAST to their individual schools by providing classroom instruction, a PowerPoint, instructional video to review, as well as continued support.

Learn more on the informational page or register for a class near you.

If you cannot find a course near you, consider hosting a course. It’s easy and you get at least 2 free seats to the training.


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Nature: A Tale of a Fox, a Scorpion, and School Attackers

In his fable The Fox and the Scorpion, Aesop attempts to illustrate how people do what they do because of their nature. While there is certainly some merit to this assertion, we can’t fully accept this way of thinking when intervening with a student who is a potential threat.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of just giving up and saying, “That’s just who they are.” We have to do the difficult and try to change a person’s nature.

 


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Snapshot: Making An Initial Assessment

When it comes to preventing violence–you have to act and act fast!

You have to make an initial assessment with the information available (regardless of how little you have). An initial assessment is just that–initial. Keep gathering information and keep updating your assessment as the situation evolves.

In all things, take any actions necessary to save and protect lives!

 

 


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Today’s Word is Action

Today’s word is action and every generation throughout history has placed great value on this word because without it, it’s impossible to be successful. When it comes to preventing violence, action is the single most important word.

Do this one (little and easy) action every school day and I guarantee you that your school will become immediately safer (and you’ll feel better while doing it)!

 


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Throwing a Can of Soup at an Attacker: Good or Bad Idea?

As the new year is about to begin, some schools soup-smallare considering whether to require students to place a can of soup on their desk to be used against a school attacker. This decision, like any new safety initiative, has to weigh the desired outcome of the new policy against the application of the new procedures. In other words, is it worth it? Can we do it? Will it be something that we can maintain?

First, in theory the strategy of throwing a can of soup at the attacker is a great idea. Absolutely, do anything you can to survive even if that means throwing something—anything—at the school attacker if it helps you or others.

Application of this tactic however, is something completely different.

In your mind’s eye, imagine someone storming into your office to commit violence against you. Is your first thought to throw something at them? If not your first, how about your second, third, or fourth course of action? Chances are if you’re like the vast majority of people confronted with an immediate threat, throwing something at the attacker is not even a consideration.

Why do I say this?

I don’t know of a single school attack or an active shooter incident where a student or a person threw something at the attacker. Not even in the recent attack in Orlando where many of those in that tragedy were already holding something (glass and/or bottle) in their hand and nearly all were adults. If there was ever a time that someone would have thrown something at the attacker, it seems like it would have happened there.

But it didn’t because throwing something at a threat is not what we naturally do during a crisis.

There are three things that we do naturally during a crisis and that’s run, hide, and fight. This strategy, unlike the tactic of a can of soup placed on the student’s desk, was revealed to us and not created by us. In other words, after observing human behavior during numerous attacks it was revealed that people will basically do three things—run, hide, fight or some combination of the three. Therefore, it was not a case of someone coming up with what they considered a successful strategy and then telling people how to do it. People were already successfully doing it and we simply gave their behavior a name—run, hide, fight.

Telling a person to throw something at the attacker is not a natural behavior, but a created tactic.

This tactic has one great flaw, as do so many of the new strategies and tactics being created in a real effort to help people survive a school attack and an active shooter incident, which is that they demand a new behavior that is not natural to the person.

Yes, it is possible to make a person perform in a manner that is ‘unnatural’ to them, but it requires enormous and consistent amounts of training. It is not natural to run into a burning building or towards a person shooting at you, but we have people who can do it and it takes of years (or even decades) of training and re-training to make it possible. We don’t have that kind of time and we’ll never have the kind of time in the schools.

It’s so much easier to prepare a person to be successful, especially during high pressure and dangerous situations, by enhancing the behavior he or she is already naturally inclined to implement.

The most beneficial element about the concept of throwing a stapler, book, can of soup or some other object at the attacker is that it helps to instill in the person a mindset to do whatever they must to survive. The problem is that the application as a tactic is not feasible. People do not do it and if they’re not going to do it, regardless of how great of a strategy, it’s not beneficial as a tactic.

Instead, invest your time by enhancing those behaviors that have already been proven to be very successful in saving lives, reducing physical harm, and limiting emotional suffering. Train your students and staff members to better implement the strategy of run, hide, fight and it will not only save you time, but most important, it will give your school community the greatest opportunity for success.

>>>>>>>>>>If you liked this article, then you’ll like the professional development ACT FAST: Surviving a School Attack with Run, Hide, Fight. A train-the-trainer course that gives school leaders the skills and materials to teach their school community how to better implement run, hide, and fight.


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“I’m Going to Kill You.”

What do you do when a student (adult) utters this phrase?

kill-you-2
This question comes up a lot during threat assessment trainings, but before we look at some specific examples, let me first set the stage.

We live in a contextual world and live a contextual life. To understand a person, we have to look at the context in which they live their life. To determine if a person’s behavior is right or wrong, good or bad, threatening or non-threatening, we have to look at the context surrounding the behavior. Often, it’s only through context that we are able to fully grasp the true meaning or intent behind the behaviors.

If your response to unwanted behaviors is strictly punishment and consequences, then context is immaterial. In other words, the kid did the behavior and regardless of why he did it, he now gets the punishment. Period. Over. Done.

Life would be much simpler if it could only be this way, but it can’t because our job is to educate (better) and protect kids which means we have to intervene and manage behaviors. Yes, there may also be punishment and consequences that go along with an unwanted behavior but these alone will never win the day. They may be very valuable tools and exactly what’s deserved, but they must be used in conjunction with the goal of intervening and managing a behavior.

Why?

The best way to effect long-term change as well as to make our school communities safer is to intervene and manage behaviors. Always intervene and manage behaviors.

With this in mind, let’s look at some examples of the phrase, “I’m going to kill you” and how context can help us to accurately determine the true meaning behind the behavior as well as how we should respond (intervene and manage).

 

Example #1.

John, a six grader, is shoving his books into his locker. Tony, a male friend, comes up behind John and slaps him on the back of the head. Tony then takes off running down the hall, laughing and taunting John over his shoulder. John chases after him yelling, “I’m going to kill you.”

Is John serious that he wants to kill Tony?

Probably not.

Is he going to hit Tony when he catches up to him? Is this behavior a waste of time and simply ridiculous? Absolutely. But is it threatening behavior? Do we need to conduct a threat assessment? I’m going to say with the information available as well as the context of the behavior—no.

In this example, it appears that the phrase was used in the context of a joke.

As far as punishment and consequences—that’s up to you.

 

Example #2.

A lively discussion about girls and dating spontaneously breaks out before the beginning of first period. Things get a little bit out of hand and a few of the eleventh grade boys begin to make pointed comments, in jest, about each other. Jack turns to Seth and says, “You don’t have to worry about it. No one would ever date you.” Seth, who had been sitting quietly and not participating in the discussion, takes the comment very personally. His face glows red, his brow wrinkles in hurt, and he replies to Jack in barely a whisper, “I’m going to kill you.”

Is Seth serious that he wants to kill Jack?

Not certain, but probably not.

However, is there a high probability that Seth will try to retaliate (verbally or physically) against Jack—I’d say absolutely.

Is this threatening behavior? Do we need to conduct a threat assessment? I’m going to say with the information available as well as the context of the behavior—yes this is threatening behavior and requires intervention and management, but I’d say no to a threat assessment.

How should we intervene?

Several ways.

  1. Train and require your staff to take immediate action in these situations.
  2. Seth was publicly humiliated. Unfortunately, for many students a public humiliation requires a public retaliation. Do not let that happen—act now and act fast.
  3. These types of hurtful comments, even if done without bad intent, should be publicly corrected and the person (Jack) made to apologize.
  4. Your staff should also report it to school leadership if a student (Seth) leaves the classroom and is still visibly upset after a public humiliation. Do not let this boil over into another period.
  5. Intervene and manage behaviors.

In this example, it appears that the phrase was used in the context of anger and in response to being hurt. It does not appear to be premeditated, but spontaneous.

As far as punishment and consequences—that’s up to you.

 

Example #3.

A seventeen-year-old male student is arrested for making threats via Twitter. He’s suspended and when his locker is searched, you find a journal. You read the journal and find disturbing hand drawn images as well as scribbled across several pages the phrase, “I’m going to kill you.”

Is the student serious about killing someone?

Not certain, but probably yes.

Is this threatening behavior? Do we need to conduct a threat assessment? I’m going to say with the information available as well as the context of the behavior—yes this is threatening behavior and we need to immediately began a threat assessment.

Why?

  1. The student has repeatedly demonstrated threatening behavior not only in the journal but also via Twitter. This may demonstrate an obsession and willingness to use violence.
  2. The journal reflects the private thoughts and personal feelings of the student which are disturbing and violent in nature.
  3. More information needs to be gathered because this student appears to not only be in need of assistance, but a potential threat to others.

In this example, it appears that the phrase was used in the context of planning and preparing to use violence. It was not spontaneous but appears to be premeditated.

As far as punishment and consequences—the student has been punished and is receiving consequences. Blend these into your intervention and management strategies. Remain flexible and continue to adjust as you gather more data from your threat assessment.

Last point…

Context is not the same thing as cause and effect. It does not occur because of some external action, but is already present and can serve as a light to illuminate the reason and meaning of behaviors.

Yes, the phrase, “I’m going to kill you” always has implications. That’s why people use it. The question we have to answer is whether it was used as a threat. To be successful in reading behaviors, we have to know the ‘why’ behind the behavior and the only way to get that answer is to look at the context of the behavior.

To ignore the context is to seriously handicap your efforts. Always look to the context…


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Visit Your Feeder Schools…Now!

(Free PowerPoint with Instructional Video)

There’s a trend that I find when I do school vulnerability assessments. Namely, that there are two specific grades in a school district where the students consistently report that they feel the most isolated, have the least amount of friends, and can’t name a single teacher that they would go to if they had a personal problem. In short, these two grade levels are the most disconnected with the least amount of relationships. Any guesses as to which two grades?

6th graders and 9th graders.

Why these two groups of students?

The reason is simple. Six graders and ninth graders are the newest people in the building and they’ve had the least amount of time to develop relationships. It’s not that the teachers and staff members don’t care and are not capable of developing relationships. They do and they can. We know this for a fact because the students who are one grade higher (7th and 10th graders) consistently report that they do feel connected, have many friends, and can name at least one teacher that they would go to (or have already gone to) when they’ve needed help with a personal problem.
This information tells us three things:

  1. We’re good at developing relationships with students.
  2. There’s a natural order to it and it takes time.
  3. There’s two grades that need special attention.

So, what can we do to fix this and with the end of the school year so close should we even try?

Absolutely, since now is the best time precisely because it is the end of the school year and the best way to accomplish this is to visit your feeder schools and begin to develop that relationship now!

Visiting your feeder schools is really easy, pays a huge dividend, and I’ll give you everything you need including a PowerPoint presentation and instructional video and anything else you need to be successful.

Just go down to your elementary and middle schools and visit your 5th and 8th graders before the year ends. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just 20-25 minutes with each class (or all together in the auditorium) with you delivering the same positive message—I’m looking forward to you joining us, I’m there to help you to be successful, and you’re not alone because you know me now and I’ll be there for you.

Go individually or create a team of SRO’s, principals, counselors, Deans of Students, or other school leaders. Some might say, “We do this at student orientation,” but it’s not the same thing. It is a requirement that everyone attend student orientation, including the adults. There is no obligation to visit the students moving up to your school and the students know it…and this is exactly why it’s so effective.

There’s also an added benefit of visiting your feeder schools at the end of the year and one I learned firsthand. Students who are connected to each other as well as to their school are far more likely to follow the established rules and to stay out of trouble.

Before I began to visit my feeder schools, our school was plagued with about 80 fights each year and nearly all of them involved sixth graders. While these fights were not terrible, they did chew up my time, wear on my patience, and stop me from being able to focus on positive and proactive initiatives. After I began visiting my feeder schools, my fights dropped down to approximately 4 a year and suddenly I had more time and most importantly to me, I enjoyed my ‘kids’, my school, and my job more. My life was better.

But like everything that is worth accomplishing, it comes with a tradeoff.

I had to trade some of my time at the end of each school year and give it to my rising 6th graders. I had to leave my building and visit every elementary school in my district. And when I was there, I had to be fully present and completely engaged and that takes time, commitment, and consistency…the same things needed to develop a relationship.

If you do this, if you trade some of your time now, I guarantee you that what you gain in return next year will far exceed your output…and I’ll help you make it easier!

To learn more about how it all works, watch this video.

For a demonstration of the PowerPoint, watch this video.

To get copy of the PowerPoint, please sign up on the PEOPLE ARE THE PRIZE

PowerPoint is only available for police and school personnel (please use your professional email when signing up).