Dane Co. schools train against active assailants
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Beyond fire and tornado drills, schools around Dane county are training against active assailants.
In fact, Josalyn Longley, a Dane Co. deputy sheriff, said the last time a student died in a school fire was in 1958.
“When was the last time a teacher or a student died in a shooting at a school or an active assailant attack?” she asked. “Honestly, nowadays, it’s just happening too often.”
Longley is an emergency preparedness coordinator with the sheriff’s office. She goes to schools, as well as businesses and churches, for drills on active assailants. “Assailants” include not only potential shooters, but also vehicle attacks or explosives.
“If something happens here in our community, we know what our job is, and we know what we’re going to do,” she said. “But we need to know that the people in that building or on that scene are doing something to increase their chance of survival.”
Active assailant trainings are now common at schools, Longley said. In one of the latest mass shootings in the U.S., 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“I have my own kids that it made me worry in a new way,” Alicia Zepp, a parent and school principal, said. “Being in this role, I have 75 students to think about. I have our seven full-time staff to worry about. It made me think more about our processes and our habits that we have at school.”
Her faculty and students at the Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Dane ran through active assailant drills for the first time last fall.
Zepp said, “We got great feedback that it was unfortunate that we needed to do training for students but extremely necessary. It put a lot of parents at ease.”
Students built barricades in classrooms and practiced throwing objects at someone portraying an assailant.
Longley said, “Sometimes we’ll start at the beginning and [students] will think, ‘I’m just going to put a chair in front of this door.’ We’ll show them if you get keys and you can access this room, it’s very easy to push this door open.”
“By the time you go on to the second one,” she continued, “they have an amazing barricade that we have a tough time getting in.”
As important as the hands-on activities are the conversations, Longley said. The youngest of students typically read a book called “I’m not scared, I’m prepared.” Longley also encourages other kids to think about situational awareness and sending in anonymous tips.
The emergency preparedness program at the sheriff’s office began as a proactive effort in 2016, according to Longley. Since its creation, the program has reached about 23,000 people across the county.
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