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Three were killed, and one was injured during a shooting rampage at Chardon High School in Ohio on Feb. 27.
The shooting began around 7:40 a.m., as 17-year-old gunman, TJ Lane, fired 10 handgun rounds at four students at a cafeteria table. Lane was shortly chased out of the school by a teacher and eventually found and arrested around 8:40 a.m. on a local road. Now in custody, Lane is being tried in an adult court for aggravated murder and may face life in prison without parole.
Bullying and drugs were both ruled out as possible motives for the shooting, but prosecutors question Lane’s mental health. Lane has controversial posts on his Facebook page, supporting a gothic lifestyle, and hinting towards his aggressive side as he put “primitive hunting” for one of his favorite sports.
According to the “New York Times,” Lane’s classmates described him as a quiet person. However, Lane did not have any obvious mental problems, so this shooting from the quiet suburb of Chardon brings questions as the alleged shooter had no apparent motives and no serious intellectual disabilities.
Can a high school really be prepared for a situation that involves a dangerous armed intruder?
The Webster Groves School District has had an intruder section in its Crisis Plan for the past 15 years, outlining how the schools should react to a possible armed shooter.
“We’ve practiced drills, but probably not as much as we should,” said assistant principal John Raimondo.
The high school practices its intruder drill at the beginning of every school year, while they practice their tornado drill as well.
The school’s current plan involves mostly classroom situations, which call for a total lock down of all classes. According to the crisis plan, all doors are to be locked at all time in order that staff can quickly lock down classrooms in an emergency.
All visitors are also supposed to sign into the main office, and if a visitor is seen without a “visitor pass,” he/she is to be approached by staff and escorted to the main office. In the actual case of a shooting, the best advice administration offers is to take cover and avoid windows.
These are just some of the policies that the high school crisis plan outlines; however, the crisis plan does not outline drills or instructions for passing period or cafeteria time. A lockdown might not be possible during these times, as they are more chaotic and the student body is harder to control, but administration is reviewing the crisis plan making revisions that would include all situations at the high school. Adminsitration hopes to have a well developed plan and even practice a drill by the end of the 2012 school year.
However, the recent Chardon shooting was not the catalyst for these revisions, rather it was the workshops that police officer Erich Weimer and director of student services John M. Thomas attended over the summer. The workshops talked about crisis plans and how schools should react to dangerous situations.
“There’s been a new movement about what’s the best response to school shooters,” said Weimer. “A lot of schools originally had lockdown plans, but I want to make a plan that is a little more choice oriented.”
Although the new plan involves more situational interpretation, there are still a few situations that administration is not sure about. In the recent shooting at Chardon, it was a teacher who chased the shooter out of the school, and risked his life to secure the safety of the students.
“I don’t know that we’d ever tell a teacher to chase a shooter out; we want to protect the safety of our students and our staff,” said Raimondo, “but at some point teachers or students need to make a decision about what to do. It’s a very, very different situation to be in.”
Webster did experience two active shooters in the 90s, according to Raimondo. One shooting took place during a Turkday Day game, while another happened on Selma after school. According to Raimondo, no students were injured, and the police responsed quickly and were able to appropriately detain the shooters.
“No kids have been injured in the 22 years that I’ve been here,” said Raimondo.
So as WGHS has been able to safely control shootings in the past, the problem is still relevent because it is so hard to detect a potential shooter.
“There is no active profile for a school shooter, there are only a few common denominators, and these aren’t usually accurate. There isn’t any cookie cutter profile,” said Weimer. “Whether you talk about it or don’t talk about it, the fact is that it happens, and you have to be prepared for it.”