What Parents Can Learn from the Mistakes at Parkland
Newly-seated Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has suspended Scott Israel, America’s worst sheriff, for his incompetence over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting last year. Good for DeSantis! Hopefully the Florida Senate will follow through and make Israel’s firing official.
And there’s more fallout from the Parkland massacre: The Florida Sun-Sentinel has released an exhaustive report about the incident that details every move that the shooter, the incompetent and under-trained sheriff’s department, and the clueless school employees made during the incident. Is it well worth your time to read that report in full if you are a parent with a child in school.
Building 12 on the school’s campus is a three-story structure. On the first floor, the gunman killed 11 students and teachers, and wounded an additional 13 students. On the third floor, he killed six and wounded two others.
But on the second floor of the building, not a single person was wounded or killed. Why? What was so different about the second floor as opposed to the first and third? There were 10 classrooms filled with students on the second floor and the gunman fired into two rooms, but not a single person was hit.
If you’ve seen a school classroom (we assume you probably have at some point), you know that every room has a “hard corner” – that corner with a blind spot that can’t be seen from the hallway even if you peer in through the window. Security experts had recommended to the school district that those hard corners be kept empty, for the specific purpose of having a place the students can crowd into during an active shooter event. In most of the classrooms in Building 12, the teacher’s desk and other furniture was in the hard corner. Students were sitting ducks in the classrooms that the shooter could see into.
On the second floor, the teachers all locked their doors and covered their windows up. When the gunman stalked through the second floor, he fired through a couple of windows. No one was hit because the students had been crowded away from the doors. The attacker then moved on to the third floor. The teachers on the second floor did everything right, short of, you know, arming themselves so they could shoot back.
At some point during the attack, the fire alarm went off. In spite of all the gunfire going on below them, students crowded into the hallway at the sound of the alarm – as they were trained to do in multitudes of fire drills. Sadly, one teacher ran out into the hallway to try to herd kids back into his classroom… and the door locked behind him, with his keys inside the room. The third-floor bathroom was also locked by the teachers to try to cut down on kids vaping at school. Students and teachers were basically trapped in the third-floor hallway when the shooter arrived.
That’s not even considering the host of errors and outright cowardice on the part of sheriff’s deputies, who milled around outside while the carnage went on inside the school. That was just a few of the errors committed by the school. (There were many others, such as the hall monitor who hid in a janitor’s closet and never used his radio to call in a Code Red and lock down the school.)
As a parent, there are some good lessons to take away from this tragedy. Take a look at how classrooms are laid out at your child’s school. Is the teacher’s desk in the “hard corner” of the classroom? If it is, raise a stink about it. Go over the teacher’s head and complain to the principal, superintendent or school board. If they refuse to move some furniture in order to protect your child’s life – and we’re serious about this – pull your child out of school and call the local media. Tell them you won’t allow your child to attend a school where the teachers and administrators don’t take active shooters seriously. Minimal, basic precautions on the second floor of Building 12 saved every student and teacher on that floor.
A lot of teachers and police froze during the shooting. Their minds couldn’t accept the sudden violence and they went into shock. The mistakes at Parkland, now that we know all of them, are a great starting point to talk to your kids about active shooter situations. It may not be a fun conversation – but it’s a necessary one.