Gunfire echoed through the semiautomatic halls of the League School, making a distinct sound the teacher there would not soon forget.
That more than 14 months ago – before three children and three adults on Monday in the magnificent stone schoolhouse attached to the Covenant Presbyterian Church, on a tree-covered hill near the south end of the town of Nashville.
The active shooter training session ended with live gunfire intended to familiarize the school staff with real guns if they ever heard them.
“Blanks don’t sound the same. They just don’t,” said security consultant Brink Fidler, whose firm conducted the exercise.
The bullet trap masters were carrying rounds of semiautomatic pistols and AR-15 style rifles loaded with real ammunition.
When some teachers heard the first shot that went off Monday, they initially mistook it for the noise of ongoing construction in the building.
“But then they said, ‘When we heard it after a few minutes, we all knew what we heard before,'” said Fidler, the police officer who walked into a school game with Nashville officials on Wednesday — two days after another massacre in America. they do to protect against mass murder.
As investigators work to determine the cause of the killing, students, parents and school leaders across the country are once again asking what can be done in schools in an age of active shooter drills, lockdowns and widespread anxiety among the most frequent shootings.
Fortified school buildings and entrance doors, glass panels covered in bulletproof plates, enclosed classrooms and heavy security have become a part of life in places where children are supposed to feel motivated to learn.
A funeral service for Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, the first victim to be hit, was held Friday in what would have been the final school break before Easter for the school’s 200 or so private gymnasiums.
The shooter was a former student at Alliance School, who also killed William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs, both 9; Katherine Koonce, a 60-year-old high school principal; Cynthia Picus, 61-year-old substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old guard.
Police fatally shot the 28-year-old assailant — who was armed with an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 9mm Kel-Tec sub2000 caliber carbine pistol, and a 9mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield EZ 2.0 handgun — inside the school about 14 minutes after the shooter opened fire through closed glass doors. to enter the building.
The AR-15 and the 9 mm caliber pistol appeared to have a 30-round magazine, according to experts who reviewed the photographs and the video footage that was released.
Officers arrived at the scene at 10:24 a.m. and shot the assailant three minutes after he died, police said.
“The shooter, in the second floor lobby, may not have reached the classrooms,” said CNN analyst Jennifer Mascia, a writer and founding staffer at The Track, a nonprofit focused on gun violence. “That’s very flattering homework for parents. But, as we can see, even a strong police response is not enough.
The attack was the 19th shooting at an American school or university in 2023 in which at least one person was wounded, according to Rhode County. The worst was when the May attack in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 dead. There have been 42 K-12 school shootings since Uvalde, where the gunman fired 100 or so rounds before police entered the school and took more than an hour to disperse the police and kill the assailant to end the attack.
Once again, children, parents and school leaders are left struggling with how to stop and handle mass shootings even though they are rare and schools are still relatively safe.
“What many school leaders have learned is not to act quickly. You’ve put a lot of pressure to do something right away, but you really have to think better,” said Michael Dorn, executive director of International Safety Harbor, a nonprofit school safety firm that has evaluated security in thousands of schools.
“You have to assume that you don’t have a good picture of what really happened and what didn’t. He is very doubtful about his claims that he saves souls or that people die because of it. No one in Tennessee will have an accurate picture of what happened there for months.
Dealing with the mission of school shootings is now part of the mission to educate children and policy.
It’s been 24 years since the mass shooting at Columbine High School left 13 people dead in 1999. And more than a decade since a gunman walked through the glass at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing six adults and 20 children.
“We keep making the same mistakes because people don’t know what those same mistakes are,” Fidler said. “School resource leaders are a big part of the solution. Safety laminate – a big part of the solution. Cameras – a big part of the solution. But if the people in the building don’t know what to do, no one cares about that anymore.”
Mass shootings are the fuel you’ve helped multibillion dollar school security industry in recent years – everything from high-tech surveillance systems to arm scanners and hand-held emergency alarm devices to immediately target law enforcement and lock down schools.
“It’s a really simple message and it’s been around since before Nashville,” said Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, who is scheduled to speak about school safety this weekend at the National School Boards Association’s annual conference in Orlando. , fl. “One of the worst times to knee-jerk policy and administrative actions after a high-profile incident like this is when you’re in a very emotional state.”
Experts said school officials should not give in to political pressure, which would be ineffective and a waste of limited resources.
“We’ve been in schools where, on the positive side, almost every staff member has a two-way walkie talkie, which is good,” Trump said. “And we have been in other schools, sometimes in the same territory, where they sit in the classroom and the principal says, ‘We have it well, but they don’t like it.'”
He added, “When security works, it works for people. When it fails, it fails because of the people.
Dorn said he’s been inundated with messages since Monday from companies he’s “never heard of” with technology offerings that claim to increase security in schools.
“The three things that every school principal pays a lot more attention to is time, energy and safety procedures,” Dorn said. “So we can’t waste any of that. We can’t spend our budget or training time on something that doesn’t have enough good evidence to actually bring results. Be careful that nothing happens 100 percent. This idea that we’re going to stop all school shootings; there’s ‘just’ no country could do this.
Dorn and others to a 2016 school safety technology report from Johns Hopkins University found that there is not enough evidence to show that devices such as weapon detectors and high-tech alarms and sensors have helped curb mass shootings.
“There is no universal school safety solution – no one technology will solve all school safety and security issues,” the researchers wrote. “The sheer number of schools and school districts across the country — with different geographies, funding, building and layout, demographics and priorities — makes each one different.
Fidler and others said more student resources and school education and training should be focused on identifying and responding to threats.
“I can’t tell you how many of our school clients still have classroom doors that don’t lock from the inside of the school,” he said.
Referring to training and preparation for catastrophic school events such as mass shootings, Fidler said: “As a society we absorb this – which is terrible, but we do it.”
On Wednesday, two days after the massacre, Fidler walked through the bloody corridors of the game searchers. “It was hard, man. I work hard, the law enforcement veteran of nearly 20 years said Saturday. “Some of that blood goes to people I know.”
Fidler found that recognizing that they challenged teachers and staff in their training.
The shooter fired multiple rounds into several school doors but did not hit the students inside “because the teachers knew exactly what to do, how to secure their doors and where to put their children in their rooms,” Fidler said.
“The ability to do, literally lie, under that amount when someone is trying to kill them and their children, that’s what’s important here,” he said.
“These teachers went to their families because of the kids.”
Koonce, the school principal, has been adamant about training school staff on how to respond in an active shooter situation, Fidler said.
“He understood the seriousness of the place and the seriousness of the doctors what he had to do in that place,” he said.
“Katherine was trying to figure out what was going to happen” when she was shot, Fidler said. “You know, Katherine Koonce, I could have a tire around her waist and drag me down the hall. He was going to find out what was going on and try and figure out what was best for his students … He went to it.”
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake could not confirm how Koonce died but said, “I know she was in the hallway by herself. I’m sure I’ve been practicing. You can tell how it’s lying in the hallway.
Fidler said the teachers covered the windows. they blocked the lights. An unusual doctor sat at the desk.
“Innumerable teachers have taken their blood out of control, funny and ready to treat people in their school,” he recalled.
“What did they have to do. Well, I have the kids safe. I have the door closed and the barrier. Now, as a teacher, we have to remember the last part, the doctor, because the power can save a lot. They crushed him. They could do it under such force… Recall all this information and they were able to bring it to fruition.
The six shooting victims were mistakenly caught and killed, Fidler said.
“How many teachers in America right now could walk into their classroom and throw a tourniquet on the table and it’s over? How many of them could do that?”
His message to his worried parents: “Ask. Find out what your kids are doing or not doing at school. And don’t ask until something is done.”