As a first responder who is responsible for ensuring the well being of students attending schools in a particular district, it is important to understand the correct ways to go about handling a variety of different situations. First responders are not always like they are portrayed in the media and while it may be glamorous to see shootouts between “good guys” and “bad guys”, in all reality, the situations which first responders encounter are oftentimes much more complicated than these depictions. In recent times, school violence has escalated as more and more young people have chosen to take out their teenage and adolescent frustrations on their peers in a violent manner. In order to prevent such acts to occur, crisis teams and planning committees much are formed for school districts throughout the country (Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA, 2008, p. 7). In the scenario given for this assignment, the crisis team has reached out to a first responder to provide an intervention plan to curb a school shooting that is currently going on and that requires an analysis of how to stop the violence that is occurring, how to determine the cause of the violence, and lastly, a blueprint on how to deal with information being released to parents and the media.
First responders must first and foremost stop the violence that is going on and address the situation at hand. While it is important to handle the other steps that are part of this intervention plan, ending the violence is the more pertinent issue at hand. Stopping the violence requires the first responder to assess just what kind of resources will be needed to assist in this situation and coordinating their arrival in an efficient manner. In this situation, it would be best if the immediate backup was called in from the police along with a request for EMT vehicles. The police will be able to help set a perimeter around the area and enter the facility as quickly and safely as possible. This particular scenario could be deemed a “situational crisis” and as a result, emergency personnel may need to be called in order to handle these rare, but potentially deadly events (James, 2008, p. 13). Once the authorities have been called a multi-pronged effort will be made with the teachers and administrators in the school expected to follow procedures that had been laid out for these potential situations by the schools planning committee in the past while law enforcement attempts to locate the shooter and isolate him or her from the rest of the population within the school (Mishna, 2008, p. 328). Students will be urged to find safe areas within the school where the classrooms are barricaded and a central meeting location in front of the school will also be established in order to provide students who have escaped with an area to congregate while the rest of the situation is diffused.
Once the situation has been handled and the threat has been eliminated, the first response team will next begin to account for students and teachers and make an assessment of the situation. It is important during this time to attempt to identify any and all evidence which may have been left behind while also IDing the suspect. If the situation results in the death of the suspect, then it is even more important to attempt to find identification elsewhere on his or her body. Once the suspect has been identified, this information will be reported to the local law enforcement authorities who can then investigate the matter to determine if they can prove to a satisfying degree that the suspect had the means and motive to participate in such criminal behavior. This will not be a simple process and while there may be a gradual leaking of information to the public, all of the details surrounding the case should be analyzed and viewed in a comprehensive manner before being publicized. The attempt in this situation is to figure out what caused the shooter to engage in this violence and whether or not there is a reason to believe any additional threats may be posed as a result of this action. Normally, school shootings are isolated events wherein the apprehension or elimination of the shooter ends the threat of violence, but it is important in contemporary times to establish that elements of terrorism or group violence weren’t involved in this situation as well. After investigating the crime scene, one common source of determining the cause of the violence is to interview those individuals familiar with the suspect and attempt to create a timeline of events that can cover the entirety of the event as well as the days and weeks leading up to it.
Lastly, as a first responder, it is important to deal with parents and the media. Interaction with these parties does not begin after the violence has been ended but instead must begin as soon as responders arrive on the scene. Media members and parents may be inclined to approach the school more closely even while a violent scenario is unfolding. First responders need to remove these individuals from the school’s perimeter and establish a safe area for them to wait which is out of the way of any potential shooting. First response members will be placed in this area to help answer any questions that parents have during the time that law enforcement is entering the facility. Once the shooter has been suppressed and the violence has ended, first response team members should organize a press conference in which local authorities can discuss what occurred and answer any questions to clarify what would otherwise simply be hearsay. In addition to all of this, it would be wise for the first response team to post resources which would allow parents and students to find information regarding who they can talk to in the wake of this incident. Counselors and therapists should be readily available to speak with the students who experienced these events and parents should be given the assurance that there will be support systems in place for everyone in the community in the aftermath of all this.
School shootings are complex and fluid events which require a well trained and prepared first response team in order to end the acts of violence taking place, identify the source for these acts, and handle parents and the media in the aftermath of this situation. There is a constant need for the first response team to be proactive in all aspects of prevention for these incidents and while the current literature and plans that are set in place will suffice for many situations, there is a need to remain vigilant in identifying other situations which may arise in the future. School shootings may have been a relatively new phenomenon less than two decades ago, but the violent reality they present in today’s classrooms present a threat which cannot be taken lightly.
Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA. (2008). Responding to a crisis at a school. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Department of Psychology. Retrieved from http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/crisis/crisis.pdf
James, R. (2008). Crisis intervention strategies. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.nelsonbrain.com/content/james00269_0495100269_02.01_chapter01.pdf
Mishna, F. An overview of the evidence on bullying prevention and intervention programs. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention. Retrieved from http://btci.edina.clockss.org/cgi/reprint/8/4/327.pdf