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Schools’ active-shooter training video may come with opt-out

August 20, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — One of New Mexico’s largest school districts is likely to give parents the final say on whether their children see an instructional video on strategies for surviving an active-shooter situation.

The district’s custom-made safety video was posted on the school district website and YouTube last week for parents to review before it is shown to children. No date has been set for its first classroom viewing.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said families should be allowed to opt out of the video after parents expressed concern about potentially traumatic effects of the training itself. “I am inclined to provide an opt-out for parents,” Garcia said.

The discussion in Santa Fe takes place as states and school districts across the nation grapple with what to teach children about responding to active-shooter situations.

New Mexico gives its public schools considerable autonomy over safety strategies and emergency drills, while relaying guidance on active-shooter scenarios from federal authorities at the U.S. Education and Homeland Security departments. Written safety strategies are filed with the Public Education Department every three years.

In December 2017, a 21-year-old gunman shot two students at Aztec High School in northwestern New Mexico before killing himself.

The Santa Fe district’s video follows a “run, hide, fight” security strategy supported by a national police association and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Santa Fe school board shunned other videos that portray gunmen on school grounds and developed its own approach that is less graphic, Garcia said.

In the nearly 13-minute video, students barricade doors and engage in a classroom discussion about how to fight back if necessary with improvised weapons like scissors or a laptop. Students are warned they may need to flee school grounds, with overhead video footage that shows a school situated within a residential neighborhood.

A small portion of parents don’t want their children exposed to the training, Garcia said.

“They don’t want their children to lose their innocence in that regard. They think that they will be traumatized,” said Garcia, who appears in the video to reassure students that a true emergency is unlikely. “My concern is that we’ve taken every measure possible to ensure the safety of our students.”

For Santa Fe Public Schools, that already includes procedures that register, screen and identify with a name tag every school visitor. Classrooms have been equipped with reinforced door jams and even makeshift toilets in case students and staff barricade themselves inside.

More preventative measures are being taken to identify students early on who may need counseling and behavior health support before violent tendencies emerge, Garcia said.

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