BURLESON, Texas (AP) — Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they got — books, pencils, legs and arms.
“Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success,” said Robin Browne, a major in the British army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
That kind of fight-back advice is all but unheard of among schools, and some fear it will get children killed.
But school officials in Burleson said they are drawing on the lessons learned from a string of shootings, from the massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999 and the Amish schoolhouse attack in Pennsylvania last week.
The school system in this working-class suburb of about 26,000 is thought to be the first in the nation to train all its teachers and students to fight back, Maj. Browne said.
At Burleson — which has 11 schools and about 8,500 students — students are instructed not to comply with a gunman’s orders and to take him down.
Maj. Browne recommends that students and teachers “react immediately to the sight of a gun by picking up anything and everything and throwing it at the head and body of the attacker and making as much noise as possible. Go toward him as fast as we can and bring them down.”
Hilda Quiroz of the National School Safety Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in California, said she knows of no other school system in the country that is offering fight-back training and found the strategy at Burleson troubling.
“If kids are saved, then this is the most wonderful thing in the world. If kids are killed, people are going to wonder who’s to blame,” she said. “How much common sense will a student have in a time of panic?”
Terry Grisham, spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, said he, too, had concerns, although he had not seen details of the program.
“You’re telling kids to do what a tactical officer is trained to do, and they have a lot of guns and ballistic shields,” he said. “If my school was teaching that, I’d be upset, frankly.”
Some students said they appreciate the training.
“It’s harder to hit a moving target than a target that is standing still,” said 14-year-old Jessica Justice, who received the training over the summer during freshman orientation at Burleson High.
William Lassiter, manager of the North Carolina-based Center for Prevention of School Violence, said past attacks indicate that fighting back, at least by teachers and staff, has its merits.
“At Columbine, teachers told students to get down and get on the floors, and gunmen went around and shot people on the floors,” Mr. Lassiter said. “I know this sounds chaotic and I know it doesn’t sound like a great solution, but it’s better than leaving them there to get shot.”