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Pennsylvania school classrooms equipped with 'large buckets of rocks' to fend off would-be killers

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Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel keeps buckets of rocks in classroom closets so students can defend themselves against intruders. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

A schools superintendent in northeast Pennsylvania is arming students with buckets of large rocks in case a would-be killer enters a classroom.

David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District in Orwigsburg, north of Harrisburg, outlined the plan before a recent legislative education committee, WNEP-TV reported.

The discussion comes during a national debate about school violence after a man killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Congress has not introduced new legislation, but President Donald Trump has suggested arming teachers with guns.

How does this work?

“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone,” Helsel said. “If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full of students armed with rocks, and they will be stoned.”

Helsel’s idea came from a national school safety program called Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Evacuate or "ALICE." ALICE emphasizes barricading classroom doors for students unable to safely evacuate. Another part of the training is teaching students to distract or fight off intruders.

Helsel admits the rocks are a “last ditch” effort. But it's better than students cowering in fear and doing nothing, he said.

A bucket of rocks is kept in every school classroom. Along with the rocks, classroom doors are outfitted with devices that make it very difficult for intruders to enter, Helsel said. Students are also taught how to barricade doors.

“At one time, I just had the idea of river stone,” Helsel told the TV station. “They’re the right size for hands, you can throw them very hard, and they will create or cause pain, which can distract.”

The rocks are called “go buckets,” and the district has trained students on their use for about two years.

Are rocks effective against armed killers?

“Obviously a rock against a gun isn’t a fair fight, but it’s better than nothing,” Helsel said in a Fox News report. “I’m not sure why some people feel that it’s more appropriate to be a stationary target under a desk in a classroom rather than be empowered to defend yourself and provide a response to deter the entry of an armed intruder into their classroom.”

Some students and parents told WNEP they support the idea.

“At this point, we have to get creative. We have to protect our kids first and foremost,” parent Dori Bornstein told the TV station. “Throwing rocks, it’s an option.”

But not everyone agrees.

Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, a K-12 security consulting firm, called the idea illogical and possibly life-threatening.

Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, told BuzzFeed she attended the hearing.

Spicka said a lawmaker responded to Helsel’s bucket of rocks plan by asking, “Can I come out and watch?” Laughter ensued.

“School districts in Pennsylvania are so underfunded, then they joke about kids having to defend themselves,” Spicka told BuzzFeed.

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