Fort Dodge resident pushes for more active shooter training in schools

A Fort Dodge resident would like active shooter training to be mandatory for all Fort Dodge Community School District staff.

Effie Hill addressed the FDCSD board at its meeting Monday night.

“I am requesting all Fort Dodge Community School employees have mandatory active shooter training that is consistent and immediate,” Hill said. “This training should be for full-time, for part-time and as-needed staff. For teachers, paraeducators, administrative staff — for really anybody on the payroll.”

Hill added, “I also request that the school board participate in this training. Hopefully this will give insight on the next steps that need to be done such as active shooter training for students that are held just like a tornado drill or fire drill. This is just a starting point to making our schools safe. There is a lot of work left to be done, but this mandate would be greatly beneficial.”

Active shooter training has been offered in the district for the past five years, according to Jennifer Lane, FDCSD director of communications.

But that training is optional.

The training is coordinated by Sgt. Luke Fleener, of the Webster County Sheriff’s Department. The Webster County Sheriff’s Department partners with the Fort Dodge Police Department and Fort Dodge Fire Department.

Training has been held throughout the FDCSD, St. Edmond Catholic School and St. Paul Lutheran School.

Hill said she posted on social media to find out the opinions of students and teachers she knew.

“I had quite a few people — a few students messaged me and said this was never offered to them,” Hill said. “A few teachers really wanted the training, but was not offered to them.”

Hill conducted a poll online asking if people would support active shooter training for teachers and students.

“The results were overwhelming,” Hill said. “After looking at those poll numbers, I wanted to look for solutions.”

Hill visited with Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter and Fleener.

“They said there had been training for all of the staff at FDCSD,” she said. “They opted to use the “I Love U Guys training, an operational guidance training.”

According to Hill, staff had the opportunity to attend the training sessions, but there had been low attendance.

“It’s an option in their work day,” Hill said. “So staff doesn’t have to attend the training if they don’t want to.”

She said everyone should know the procedures.

“Imagine if you’re a teacher on the worst day of your life,” Hill said. “It’s chaos, and there is an active shooter in the building. You didn’t get to go the training because you had other work assignments you had to get done, but your neighbor in a different classroom had that training. You look out there and you notice her door is shut, her lights are off. You think to yourself, should I be doing that? and next thing you know you look at your window and you see students and teachers going out of an exit they don’t normally go out of, while you are still trying to account for your students. You think about the first responders and police officers and how they have things set up.”

Stu Cochrane, FDCSD board president, said he appreciated Hill coming to the meeting.

“We really appreciate the fact that you took the time to come,” Cochrane said. “It’s important and obviously this is an important topic.”

Cochrane said the district has been working with law enforcement for the past several years.

“We have tried to follow those directions and they have provided us as a district with some of the things we should be thinking about and some of the procedures,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the community for endorsing the school bond issue. We have used millions of dollars we were able to dedicate to school security in part, trying to be proactive.”

He said the the the district would continue its efforts in improving safety.

“What we are going to do is ask that administration reach out to Mr. Fleener and Mr. Porter and continue that dialogue,” Cocrhane said. “We need to talk about the possibility of having Mr. Fleener present on this and he said he would be welcome to come and talk to the community.”

Cochrane added, “He did impress upon me that it should be an educational endeavor. That whatever we choose to do as a community there needs to be an educational component to involve parents and families and kids. We appreciate you bringing that issue to us and we will continue to explore that through administration with Mr. Fleener and Mr. Porter. Thank you for bringing that to us. Well done.”

Jennifer Lane listed the following procedures that have been in place within the district:

• “Building administrators all cover the safety plans specific to their buildings with staff during a building staff meeting at the beginning of the school year and review the process part way through the year.

• “District representatives participate in a Community Safety Committee with representatives from other schools in the county as well as first responding agencies — typically hold meetings a minimum of quarterly throughout the year. This committee plans training in the schools and addresses safety concerns and ideas as they arise. It’s also allowed us to build strong relationships with our first responders who we would be working closely with in an emergency situation. This group has also received mental health training during these meetings.

“Our 12 month calendar includes a page titled “FDCSD Parent’s Guide to School Safety and Security” which outlines how we are prepared for an emergency, what parents can do to help and how our schools will respond. This is the second year we have included this information as a way to educate our parents on our processes and the language we use in emergencies.

“The Community Safety Committee facilitates a couple of “table top exercises” at various buildings each year. These exercises walk the crisis response team in that building through a scenario (examples: fire in the building, upset parent who pulls a gun, weather/tornado, etc) where the building team talks through what their response would look like and what questions arise so we can answer them before an actual emergency occurs.

• “District administrators have gone through Standard Response Protocol training with our first responders so we all understand who is responsible for what during an emergency.

• “We have identified Rapid Response Teams in each building as well as a District level team who understand their responsibilities should an incident occur.

• “We conduct building walk-throughs of each of our schools with the Fort Dodge police chief and a fire department and sheriff’s department representative when available on an annual basis.

“When an incident of some kind does occur, we always do a debriefing with the staff afterward to review the process and address any concerns that may have come during the incident.”