ATHENS — Athens teacher Dr. William Bresser referenced a projected image of the Columbine High School library during Tuesday’s Athens School Board meeting.
He and high school Principal Corey Mosher were presenting the latest about how students and staff are being trained to respond to potentially deadly situations. In the case of the Columbine massacre from 1999, the library is where a majority of the 13 victims were killed.
“The shooters were out in the hallway. They heard the shots. The librarian told them to get down under their desks, which is what they were trained to do,” Bresser explained. “If they had gone out through the back, upper left doorway, they could have gotten out of the building without being harmed.”
Mosher and Bresser are both trainers with the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) active shooter training system, which was created following the Columbine shootings. As they explained, one of the major tenants of the system is making sure students aren’t huddled under desks or together where they can be easy targets.
Another component focuses on one’s mindset about their surroundings.
“Suppose someone came through that door right now and started actively shooting?” Bresser posed to the school board members and those in attendance. “What would you do? Where would you go?”
“The key is to think a little differently,” Mosher continued. “... Especially now as trainers – where are the exits in the room? Where can I leave? What could I use to barricade a door with if I needed to secure myself in an area?”
Under Act 44, the School Safety and Security Act, schools are mandated to hold at least one safety drill within the first 90 days of the school year, Mosher said. The Athens Area School District currently has one drill planned per marking period, replacing some fire drills as allowed through the state of Pennsylvania.
“We still need to do those fire drills, but we also have to practice school safety,” said Mosher.
Since August of 2017, he said all Athens faculty have been trained in the ALICE system and must renew their training each year. For new teachers in Athens, this training is given from the start, providing them with options so they can respond to a variety of situations to help keep their students safe.
“I want to thank you both for working together for all of our students,” said school board member Karen Whyte. “You’re doing a great thing.”