On April 10, 2017, a murder-suicide inside a San Bernardino Elementary School classroom tragically led to the death of an eight year old boy and his teacher, according to San Bernardino Police. The shooter, 53-year old Cedric Anderson, was the husband of Karen Smith, his intended victim. Police say they were recently estranged.
According to witnesses, Anderson entered the classroom where Smith taught 15 special needs students from first through fourth grade, pulled out a firearm and shot Smith before turning the gun on himself. Eight year old Jonathan Martinez and another nine year old boy were standing behind Smith and were also shot. Martinez died of his injuries and the other child is hospitalized in stable condition.
Anderson was known to school staff. In fact, police chief Jarrod Burguan explained that, “ he entered the office and he had simply said that he was there to drop something off for his wife.”
The approximately 500 students of North Park Elementary were evacuated to Cajon High School. Many of the parents speaking to news outlets stated that they heard of the shooting via the news media and rushed to the scene. Other anguished parents gathered outside the high school waiting for news of their children.
One parent asked why he was not sent a text message or given any information. Another parent stated that she received a robo-call from the school about an emergency after the story broke over the news. She said that there was no answer when she called the school.
This incident serves as an important reminder that schools must be prepared for any crisis situation. So often emphasis is placed on the violent stranger but tragically, violence can also strike from within the school community. Images of parents desperate for news of their children also underscores the need for schools to have a comprehensive crisis communication plan in place and be prepared to rapidly put the plan into action.
Top 5 Best Practices in school security dictate that every school:
- Review and update your emergency protocol annually
- Train faculty and staff on the protocol every year
- Conduct regular drills with both staff and students
- Test equipment, especially internal communication equipment on a regular basis
- Ensure that your school building is secure and lockdown-ready
A well-structured plan goes beyond baseline preparation to ensure that students, faculty and staff are fully prepared to respond calmly and effectively in an emergency. In fact, a written plan is just one component of an effective security protocol. Active preparation, regular review and training are imperative. Adults and children alike feel safe and secure when they know what to do in an emergency.
At Bedrock Intelligence, a key feature of our work is to create a safety plan tailored to your building and school population. We provide the necessary training to ensure that faculty and staff are empowered to guide your school through an emergency.
On March 30, Greenwich High School in Greenwich, CT went into lockdown for several hours after the discovery of a specific threat scrawled on a restroom wall.
When the lockdown was initiated, students reported initial panic in the hallways, with people screaming and running in different directions. Students quickly sheltered in classrooms and other safe areas as authorities conducted an investigation. Though thankfully only a threat, this incident serves as a reminder that every school must have in place a well planned and practiced crisis response protocol.