An active shooter inside a school is without a doubt, the worst nightmare for any parent.
Columbine. Sandy Hook.
Just saying the names of the schools is enough to make you shutter.
The way schools react to an active shooter is the 'lockdown'.
The 'lockdown' in most schools consists of the teacher turning off the lights, locking the door, reinforcing the door with desks if they can, and huddling the kids in one corner of the room.
It's not a secret...it's just what is done, and not everybody thinks it is the best way to protect students when an active shooter is in a building.
Lockdown is great, until the guy comes through the door...and then it's probably the worst thing ever. - Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover is the founder of Fit to Fight. He travels the world teaching teachers how to fight for their lives, and the lives of the children in their classroom.
"The reality is, if you're in the classroom it's just you," said Hoover. "By the time police get there, it's going to be too late."
School districts in the Lowcountry, and across the nation use a form of the federal government's Run, Hide, Fight model. However, the fight portion of the model is rarely talked about, let alone taught or even encouraged.
"Lockdown is great, until the guy comes through the door...and then it's probably the worst thing ever," said Hoover. "It's horrible to say, but it's like shooting fish in a barrel."
Hoover travels the world teaching teachers how to engage, and disarm a gunman as a last resort.
Fighting back works.
"If you can run, fantastic, get out. If you can hide, fine, do it. But the idea that it's run, hide, fight, and we're not really going to talk about that last one...we're just ignoring the reality," Hoover said. "Fighting back works."
Hoover drives home his point with a series of demonstrations. He inflates trash bags that represent students in a classroom. The teacher puts the bags where she would put her students in a lockdown, and someone with a pellet gun comes in and opens fire. It's a powerful, emotional illustration that left the observers there with us when Hoover came to Charleston, shaken.
"On the surface they're just trash bags, but it's really easy if you close your eyes for half a second, and you imagine faces here," Hoover said just before the demonstration.
As you would expect, school districts in the Lowcountry are not teaching their teachers the fight portion of run, hide, fight either. However, Berkeley County is teaching some administrators a form of Krav Maga that would allow them to engage a gunman, or another attacker.
Dorchester District II Security Coordinator Mike Turner says, he is open to anything that would increase survivability for teachers and students, but requiring teachers to learn how to fight is a difficult venture.
"If the staff expressed interest, I would certainly be open to exploring it," said Turner.
In Charleston County, Security Coordinator Michael Reidenbach said, district-wide training is not on the radar.
"When you talk about engaging a gunman, it's a totally different realm, so if there are staff members that want to seek out training like the class offered recently, I have no objection to that," Reidenbach said. "You have to train, to stick with it."
All agreed that it should be the last resort.
Clearly, our school districts are not alone in the aversion to this type of training. Hoover says public schools in general, don't want to talk about this at all.
Some teachers don't want to talk about it.
"You're gonna have a lot of people that are, look, that guy is coming through the door with an AR-15, what am I going to do? When they see this demo, now it's like...ok, I need to be able to do something, because I don't ever want to find myself in that place," said Hoover.
If it's not hand to hand combat, Hoover recommends arming teachers with improvised weapons. A fire extinguisher, laptop, or even pair of scissors.
"For the guy that expects nothing other than to be able to rack up body count, that stuff changes everything."
In Hoover's mind, doing something is better than nothing. And to him, lockdown is just about nothing.
"Hoover is on track with the local, state and federal law enforcement training methodologies currently being taught nationally, which increasingly advocates that everyone, including civilians, should, as a last resort, fight to survive when it becomes impossible to avoid or deny a shooter from gaining access and killing victims," according to Carol Melton, a Government Security Specialist. "Whether it be a classroom full of children, or a work environment, or in any situation. Having the will to survive and taking action to survive by fighting back as a last resort, instead of being sitting ducks, statistically increases survival rates in an active shooter situation. Why would we not train our teachers to develop this survival mindset and these response techniques, showing them how to fight back when all else fails, when that may be the last best chance to protect our children's lives?," Melton added.How does Hoover feel about arming teachers with guns?