By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Area residents who see police cars surrounding the Carthage Middle School Saturday won’t have to worry about a school shooting — at least not a real one.
But the school building at Centennial Avenue and River Street will be the site of a training exercise for “something you have to practice for that you pray will never happen.”
That’s how Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan describes an “active shooter drill” that will involve members of the police department and other emergency services, along with Carthage school administrators, teachers, students and parents.
The first exercise is set for Saturday at the middle school and a second will be held April 28 at the Carthage Junior High School.
The training will also involve the Carthage Fire Department, Carthage ambulance and the Jasper County 911 center, according to Capt. Randee Kaiser.
“There will be classroom training in the morning, then an actual scenario,” he said. “We’ll be incorporating the kind of reactions we would have if we did have an active shooter. We’re trying to make it as realistic as possible to get experience in overcoming the kind of obstacles we would encounter.”
He said instructors from the Joplin Police Department will conduct the training for emergency responders, and CPD school resource offices Sgt. Doug Dickey and Officer Kevin Provins will supervise training for school district staff.
Mark Baker, assistant superintendent for the Carthage School District, said the sessions are in addition to drills held in each school to practice how teachers and staff would react to an intruder in the building.
“Administrators went through some training last year, but it was more of a walk-through,” said Baker. “This will be a live scenario with real-time action.”
He said teachers and other staff members will be doing the training on a voluntary basis. He said some parents and students — with parental permission — also will be part of the exercise.
“The whole goal is to coordinate everyone’s efforts in real time; we hope to learn a lot,” Baker said. “And it will be interesting when we do a drill at the junior high, where there’s four floors. It will be a totally different dynamic than the two floors at the middle school.”
Sgt. Dickey said a goal of the training is to “give teachers and staff an idea of what would happen in the event of a major crisis,.
“In the absence of training, people will panic. The teacher normally is the one who would step in and get control and get kids to safety,” he said. “When you hear of these situations nationwide, it’s not the police stopping it — it can just as easily be a by-stander or a teacher. We don’t want to put people in harm’s way, but if harm is coming at you, we want you to have options.”
He said part of the training is to help teachers know what to look for, and to foster the kind of relationships with students to ensure “that when kids know there could be a problem, they won’t be afraid to come to someone and talk about it.”
According to the National School Safety Center, there have been 84 deaths from school shootings since 2005. There were no injuries in 2006, when 13-year-old Thomas White fired an assault rifle inside Memorial Middle School in Joplin.
Classroom training will start at 8 a.m., with the “shooter in the school” exercise set for 3:30 p.m.