“We’re conducting training to go over in the event of an active shooter,” said Kentucky State Police Lt. Dean Patterson, as the day’s session began in late July at Graves County Central Elementary School. “Today, we’re doing Fancy Farm and Central Elementary because they share the same floor plan. The purpose of the training is to get the teachers and staff here in the proper mindset to prepare themselves in the event that a tragedy does occur. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of if, but when these things happen. We’ve seen it all too often.”
No one involved in the training exercise has to look far to verify that comment. “Obviously, the tragedy at Marshall (County High School last school year) has brought it closer to home,” Patterson continued. “So, we’re doing all we can to get the teachers to start thinking about plans, how they set up their classrooms, and help them get their mental preparation. To be physically prepared is one thing, but you’ve got to have your head in the right place in the event of a tragedy.”
The KSP Post 1 unit conducted the training with ten officers, many of them detectives. The post has led similar training sessions for six years and fine-tuned it during that time. The KSP personnel are scheduled to work with other schools in the Graves County district within the week.
“I appreciate the simulation,” said teacher Kim Seavers. “I know that we can’t mimic what would truly happen, but I think it’s great to have conversations and practice what you could do, by practicing the three main things: run, hide, and fight. It definitely makes me more comfortable. Will we ever be comfortable with the situation? No.”
“We don’t make it super complicated,” Patterson explained, “because the more complicated you make a plan, when your blood pressure starts to rise, you forget all the details. We try to make it as simple as possible. We’re not here to upset anybody or to scare anybody. We’re here to build their confidence. I think we’ve been successful in that over the years.”
“I was thinking while we were in those classrooms, how am I going to arrange my classroom?” said special education resource teacher Cathy Hodge. “I, in particular don’t have a regular class full of students all day. I’m thinking I don’t have anything to hide behind. I have two big tables in my room. So, when I go back and get ready for the first day, I’ve got to at least come up with a book shelf or something for my students and me to hide behind to help make the environment as safe as possible.”
“It’s one of those things we don’t like to think about, but we have to,” Patterson said. “We’re in the business of protecting people. Teachers are in the business of teaching young children; however, they’re also in the business of protecting them while they’re here. Anything we can do to help them expand their toolbox to keep the kids safe, that’s what we’re willing to do. We’re always available to help and guide people, where needed.”
“I think even when we did this five years ago, when shootings happen, the police learn things that we need to do differently,” said veteran teacher Diane Smithson. “I think we’re constantly having to change what we do and how we react. This is good to let us know what experience has taught the police.”
“We don’t intend to upset people, but we know that this is real life,” Patterson concluded. “We don’t want to make the staff super paranoid, but it’s important at least to give it some thought that in the event of a situation like this, have you rehearsed what you might do? We try to put that in the back of their heads, should they ever need it.”
“We offer a big ‘thank you’ to Kentucky State Police Post 1 for presenting an active shooter drill to us today,” said Graves County Schools director of pupil personnel Christy Puckett. “Thanks to Lt. Dean Patterson, a Graves County Class of 2000 graduate, who led that drill for us and put together a staff that provided us a great training experience. We’ll use what we’ve learned in keeping our children safe and enhancing a positive climate and culture for the new school year.”
Kentucky State Police Post 1 recently led personnel in the Graves County Schools in active shooter training. Here, Fancy Farm Elementary School staff members discuss a scenario they’d just completed. Pictured, from left, are Mandy Thompson, Jill Cope, Kim Seavers, Dianne Smithson, and KSP Detective Brain Hill.
Graves County Schools elementary instructional supervisor Amanda Henson said, “Within the modern culture of American society, we in the Graves County Schools realize that besides our emphasis on strong academics, safe schools for our children must be our top priority.”
(photo by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools)