Springfield school safety expert: Even one school shooting ‘too many’

Springfield City Schools train students and staff members at length to prepare them for an active shooter situation like the one in Florida this week, the safety coordinator for the district said.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida left 17 dead.

Champaign County has been affected by one school shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School in 2017. Last month German Twp. police said a student brought a gun to Northwestern High School, although it wasn’t fired.

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Safety is a priority at Springfield, Safety and Security Coordinator David Lyle said, and the district runs students through drills four times a year.

“If you look at the statistics, schools are still a safe place for our kids and students to be,” Lyle said. “The numbers of deaths outside of schools are much higher. But if there is one shooting, it’s one too many.”

Springfield students are taught the run-hide-fight technique to stay safe during a school shooting, Lyle said. The main objective of the technique is to get to safety as quickly as possible.

“The whole concept is, if we can get away from a threat, that is our priority — to get our kids and our staff to a safe place,” he said.

Students and staff are to get as far away as possible. If they can’t, Lyle said they need to find a secure area where they are.

“We need to find a secured place and barricade at that point,” he said. “Again, that is not our final goal. We need to get out to a place of safety.”

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Only if there is no other option should students and staff try to confront a shooter, Lyle said.

“The fight and countermeasure is the last option you would ever want to be faced with but that is an option you could use until you can get away,” Lyle said.

Ryan Cole, the father of the student shot twice at West Liberty-Salem, expressed sorrow following the Florida school violence.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community of Parkland, Florida,” Cole said. “We grieve with you and pray the Lord’s comfort be upon you as you deal with this horrific act of evil.”

Officials at West Liberty-Salem couldn’t be reached for comment but said recently the district has upgraded safety and students are still affected by the shooting.

MORE: Champaign County: How healthy are your schools?

District leaders across Clark and Champaign counties reacted to the Florida shooting.

Greenon Board of Education members began their meeting Wednesday night with a moment of silence for the victims of the Florida shooting.

School shootings happen too often, Greenon School Board President Dennis Henry said, and he hopes someone figures out a way to prevent them in the future.

Graham Superintendent Kirk Koennecke tweeted out to remind parents his district partners with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to employ a school resource officer.

Signs of a potential threat can exist before a shooting, Lyle said, but there isn’t perfect prevention. He trains Springfield staff to be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right with a student.

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“The best way to increase survival is to not to have the incident happen at all,” Lyle said. “We teach and preach constantly that if something doesn’t look right, sound right or smell right, you need to take action at that point.”

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