Marietta High’s 200 employees, who include about 160 teachers, attended a one-hour session in preparation for an “active shooter” lockdown drill they will face on Jan. 15. Students return to school Monday.
Marietta Principal Leigh Colburn said teachers are reminded of the protocol annually and said the lockdown in 10 days is one of two that teachers, students and staff participate in each school year. The last one was in October.
“While the timing is unfortunate with regards to the tragedy in Connecticut, I think anything that makes them listen with a more intentional ear or a more sensitive ear is probably good,” Colburn said about the refresher training.
The session was planned in early fall prior to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 students and six staff members.
“I think that with the tragedy fresh on everyone’s mind, they probably listened to it well,” Colburn said. “We are doing this today to make sure that when we do that drill on Jan. 15, we’re all on the same page and we know what to expect.”
“If this were to unfortunately happen at Marietta High School, you’ll have this in your head that helps us to respond more effectively and preserve as many lives as possible,” she said. “Educators go into the profession of education because they are nurturers. We aren’t aggressive by nature, and our No. 1 priority is to protect our kids.”
She reminded her staff that the school was built the year after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado with a “a lot” of safety features other schools are not as fortunate to have.
“Those, of course, do not safeguard you against someone willing to commit an act, but we are primed for a better response,” she said.
Additional safety features include clean sight lines throughout the building, more than 100 surveillance cameras, phones for emergency use in each classroom and two school resource officers.
Officer Adam Gravitt, a seven-year police veteran who serves as one of Marietta High’s campus officers, walked the staff through a video and presentation about what to do in case an active shooter were on campus.
An active shooter was defined as someone who has a “desire to kill without concern for their own safety or threat of capture.”
Gravitt reminded the staff to be calm, assure others that they are trying to protect them, secure the immediate area by locking and blocking the doorway with whatever is available, close blinds, turn off lights, turn off computer monitors, if possible, silence cellphones and get out of sight from the room’s exterior.
“We can’t even fathom the chaos that is going to take place,” he told the staff. “You need to get into the mindset. Do your best in the event that something happens.”
Once these actions are taken, they are advised to contact 911 if possible and inform the dispatcher of their exact location, the number of people in their location, the number and type of injuries, any suspect descriptors, the type of weapon being used and if they recognize the shooter.
If the students or staff members are in an open area such as the gym or cafeteria, they are encouraged to hide or seek cover, possibly behind a lunchroom table or bleachers.
“And if possible, try to get out of the building,” Gravitt said. “Remember, running down the hallway provides the shooter with more targets and slows police. The shooter’s main goal is not to escape but to kill as many people as possible.”
Lastly, Gravitt said that once law enforcement has entered the building, it is very important for staff members to let officers come to them, keep their hands visible and listen to the instructions at all times.
“When police enter the room, do not present a threat to them by pointing at them, making quick movements, running towards them or attempting to hug them or screaming or yelling,” he said.
The refresher training is something the district is planning on hosting at each of the city school district’s 11 schools in the near future.
Dayton Hibbs, Marietta City’s associate superintendent, also said the district is hoping to work with the Marietta Police Department to find a way to conduct a cost-effective first aid training session for staff members.
Thomas Buresi, a French teacher, and Gregory Taylor, the 11th grade administrator, were among the nearly 200 in attendance Thursday.
Buresi, who has taught at Marietta High for 10 years, said he has always felt pretty safe on the campus and believes the school is prepared for a shooting incident.
“All the doors can be locked, we have video cameras all over the place, there is an office for the Marietta Police Department at the main office so they have a view of everything,” he said.
“Everything is written, we have maps in the classrooms, so we know exactly what is supposed to be done. We have the emergency plans that we go through every now and then to underline what is to be done.”
Taylor, who has worked at Marietta City Schools for 21 years, said cafeteria staff and janitors are also on the same page regarding school safety and that there is always some type of safety presence on the campus.
“It only takes one incident for something bad to happen, and we don’t want that to happen here, so we are very proactive,” Taylor said. “If a stranger walks in this building, you’re going to be immediately addressed by someone.”
In addition to Marietta High’s training, the Cobb County sent out a release Thursday outlining guidelines for the community to follow in case of an active shooter event.
“Two high-profile mass casualty shootings in less than a month have left the county horrified and a bit on edge,” the release states. “Because active shooter situations often are over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.”
The release goes over the same “Run, Hide, Fight” guidelines taught to the city’s high school staff and directed Cobb citizens to an instructional video on the county’s website at http://cobbfire.org/.