Children are being murdered in their schools while politicians trade talking points and campaign promises about school safety. Our children are neither partisans nor political chess pieces. What can we do to keep our children safe while politicians jockey for position in back rooms? I met some heroes who found a solution that saves lives.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a shooter entered Sandy Hook Elementary School. In only 10 minutes, the murderer killed 20 young children and six adults. The 911 calls were heartbreaking.
Two school administrators ran toward the sound of gunfire empty handed. Both of them were murdered. Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old first grade teacher, died while physically shielding her students from the murderer. All she had to protect and defend her students from a madman was her body. These teachers risked their lives for our kids. What can we do to help these heroes as they protect and defend our children?
The day of the Sandy Hook Murders, some of the board members from Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) had a conference call to discuss the tragedy. One said, “All those teachers had to defend their children were their bodies, and they sacrificed their lives to save those kids. We have to do better.”
That night, the idea of FASTER was born.
FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. The program calls itself, “…a carefully-structured curriculum offering over 26 hours of hands-on training over a three-day class that exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. The purpose is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately.”
When BFA founded Buckeye Firearms Foundation (BFF), ordinary citizens across the country gave their hard earned money to help teachers defend kids. When FASTER offered their first class for 24 students in 2013, 2,500 teachers and administrators signed up. One BFF board member described the reverence he has for the teachers who volunteer.
He said, “These are teachers will stand between a murderer and your kids.”
That was three years ago.
Although the FASTER and BFF teams are all volunteers, the money they raise goes to the remarkable trainers at the Tactical Defense Institute and the Cerino Training Group. Both are world-class tactical training organizations that adapted their training to fit a teacher’s specific needs.
Most of the trainers have backgrounds as police, SWAT and federal law enforcement officers. They take this training seriously, as do the teachers. With each exercise, they know that this one skill taught to this one teacher may make the difference between people living or dying. It’s evident in everything they do.
My friend Rob Morse attended Faster Level 1 in June of this year as an observer. He documented his experiences in his blog Armed Heroes In Teachers Clothing.
To take the FASTER training, the volunteers must already have their state concealed carry license. School boards in Ohio retain full authority to allow or reject having armed teachers in their schools. Some states prohibit school districts from making that decision.
All the armed defenders are volunteers. In Rob’s article, you can see his deep respect for these teachers. They know that they may be called upon to defend their students. It’s a heavy burden that they take very seriously.
I was invited to attend FASTER Level 2 as an observer. The Level 2 training is for teachers and administrators who have already been through Level 1, and have typically been a first responder in their school for a year.
The training includes live fire exercises. That meant time at the pistol range on a sweltering 95-degree day with a heat index of 120. The range exercises were brutal in that heat. With an instructor to student ratio on the range of 2:1, there was a lot of coaching going on: tweaking a grip here, adjusting a stance there. Time and again, the trainers told students that, “You don’t rise to the occasion, but you fall to the level of your continued training.”
The second and third day had some work on the range, but also included advanced skills. Students learned hand-to-hand non-lethal techniques, and some added complexities that taxed their decision-making skills. Tiny nuances made the difference between stopping a threat and not stopping a threat.
One trainer put it this way, “Yes, it’s hard. AND your students’ lives depend on it. Why die to protect your kids when you can protect them and live?”
Said another trainer, “This attacker wants to kill you to get to the kids. You can’t let that happen. You have to protect the kids and you can’t do that if you’re dead. We have to win.
There has been research and reporting on the optimum number of armed defenders in a school. The bottom line, one per building per floor is seen as a standard.
Quickly stopping the threat opens the way for “second responders” who have medical trauma training but who are not armed. Many in the media miss this fact. FASTER isn’t about guns in schools, but about stopping a threat so first responders can save lives. These teachers added even more emergency trauma training in addition to what they had in their first FASTER class.
Bringing FASTER To Your State
I was beyond impressed by this training and the teacher volunteers. I was in awe of their commitment. What has to happen before this training could come to your state? First, check your local laws to see if armed defenders in schools are already legal, or if there are roadblocks in the way. Contact your state legislators and demand that they pass legislation to allow teachers and administrators to defend your kids in school.
Second, once the laws in your state support it, or if it is already legal, reach out to the folks at BFF and FASTER. Every situation is different, and they want to help. They will also know if someone from your state has already contacted them.
This Shouldn’t Be Political
Our children are not partisans; they are not political chess pieces. Politicians promote the fantasy that guns should never be allowed in schools. But those same politicians need to face the reality that disturbed or evil people do bring guns in to schools. Experts have shown us what will actually work to save lives. While politicians argue policy, kids are dying. Let us do something that actually make kids safer today.
One teacher said, “We live in a broken world. Hoping that killers won’t go on rampages doesn’t stop them. Only a competent, trained, armed defender can deal with the reality that bad people are out there in our broken world. It’s our job to stop them.”
It is our job too.
An expanded version of this article is available here.
Laura Carno is a blogger, media strategist and the author of Government Ruins Nearly Everything. Contact her at LauraCarno@gmail.com. Her blogs are available at LauraCarno.com.
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