Training included in depth look at shooters

Glenn Parrish
gparrish@boonevilledemocrat.com
A school shooter has victims lined up ready to be killed during a scenario for Magazine school staff members during a training exercise Saturday.

The 60 hours of training a group of Magazine School District employees underwent to become a Commissioned School Security Officer last week was purposefully realisitic.

Instructors have to know if a teacher will take the means necessary to stop someone, even a kid, from killing kids, according to Jon Hodoway of School Training Services, the company hired by the school district to provide the training.

Mental and physical stresses that accompany that training and thought pattern are also real.

“We want see how they react to the stress. We’re pushing them out of their comfort zone,” said Jon Hodoway of School Training Services.

The group went through multiple case studies including Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech — elementary through university settings where school shootings occurred.

“The reason we do that is what we find is that school shooters are exchanging information on the internet and they’re discussing and researching what techniques work and don’t work,” said Hodoway. “So there’s some commonality in things they tend to do.”

Some of that, Hodoway said, will include things like lining up victims against a wall or on their knees and shooting them in the back of the head.

“That’s how they get their kills. They’re not shooting moving targets, they’re not shooting kids that are 15 feet away or 15 yards away,” said Hodoway. “So one of the things we teach is ultimately we want the kids to make the decision to run, hide, or fight (rather) than wait on authority.”

Hodaway uses Parkland as an example where aon the second floor of the building, where there were no adult teachers telling kids what to do when a fire alarm went off, there were no casualties.

Meanwhile on the third floor where teachers intervened the death toll was substantial.

“That lining up and shooting them on their knees like that is what school shooters do,” Hodaway said of one scenario run Saturday. “So what we want to do is train CSSOs in what they’re probably going to find, but secondly we want to empower the administration, the teachers, the janitors, every position is that run, hide, fight is something they need to empower their kids to do.

“It’s not a controlled exercise, it’s purposely uncontrolled random exercise. We’re educating just like we would for a fire, or tornado.”

The scenarios CSSOs went through could call for multiple shooters but, Hodaway said, 98 percent of the time the shooter is a lone male with multiple weapons — Columbine and Jonesboro are exceptions.

School shooters are also goal oriented, planning people, Hodoway said.

“They plan for months at a time and they’re goal driven and they’re super intelligent,” said Hodoway. “They look for counters that are in place. They have plans to deal with law enforcement. (But) if they have people in the school that are well trained, well armed and prepared to act that they can’t identify or have a counter to, they’ll go somewhere else.”

“We make it so untennable to even contemplate an attack of that nature, that they’ll find another target.”

Hodoway is also pointed about the shooter.

“Most of them plan to die. They don’t have an escape plan, they have a dying plan,” said Hodaway. “So if I can begin to put pressure on them, they will take their own life.

“Whether they do it with a gun or I do it, they stop killing my kids.”

That may sound cold, but there’s no apology forthcoming.

“When someone comes to a school to kill your children, to kill your kid, it’s a horrible day. There’s no winning. There’s only reducing the degree of losing,” said Hodoway.

It all falls under the company motto of, “Not my school. Not my kids.”

“I can’t help protect every school but I can help (superintendent Dr.) Beth (Shumate) protect this school,” said Hodoway. “I can’t help her be in every school but I can help these teachers protect this school and their kids in this school.”

The shooter’s goal, Hodoway said, is to be famous and to punish the community.

“Where else but (the school) could you strike and hurt the whole community,” asks Hodoway.

The training was also largely uninterruped, with lunch breaks including lectures, Hodoway said.

“We physically have them for 10 hours a day,” said Hodoway.

The training also was customized for the Magazine school district.

“We try to make sure no two programs are exactly alike. Obviously this school district has all of their schools kind of bunched up together but they’ve got a highway that runs between them and a series of additions and outbuildings,” said Hodoway. “So we have to adapt the training and tactics that we offer to the CSSOs here to be successful in this school.

“We’re not giving them a canned program.”

All of the trainers involved are also currently serving in law enforcement.

“Scott (Lewis) and I are both state certified law enforcement instructors, firearms instructors, and we’ve gone through a lot of specialized training on this program.

“Our other instructors have a variety of certifications so we bring in a number of people other than ourselves to teach certain specialties like defensive tactics and weapons retention and the medical stuff. We try to make what we have are experts in the field.”

“We hand pick from Springdale (PD) and Benton County, a couple of the largest agencies in the state,” said Scott Lewis, Hodoway’s partner.

“We do that because we’re dealing with people who care deeply for the kids, they have a high degree of buy-in emotional investment with them and typically we’re dealing with people with advanced degrees, so the expect a certain acumen when they receive training,” said Hodoway.