Utah school teachers have been training on how to respond to an active shooter - practicing techniques to neutralize assailants and keep students safe, according to the Associated Press.
The training is nothing new - as at least 39 states require some form of lockdown, active-shooter or similar safety drills, according to the Education Commission of the States. Utah requires that elementary schools conduct at least one safety drill per month, while secondary schools must have detailed emergency response plans on hand. While firearms training in the state is voluntary, Utah County Sheriff's Teacher's Academy has a waiting list for its next four-week program.
According to Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith, the popularity of concealed carry permits in the state means training teachers is even more important. Around half of the teachers brought their own guns to the shooting range to train.
The Utah school psychologist weaved through a maze of dusty halls before spotting him in the corner of a classroom, holding a gun to a student’s head. She took a deep breath and fired three shots, the first time she’s ever used a gun. One bullet pierced the shooter’s forehead.
“Nice work,” a police officer told her as they exchanged high-fives in front of cardboard props representing the gunman and student.
Miramontes recently joined 30 other Utah teachers at a series of trainings where police instructed them on how to respond to an active shooter. Teachers went through the shooting drill inside a warehouse set up to look like a school, then moved outside to a shooting range. -Associated Press
"If teachers are going to be bringing firearms into schools, let’s make sure they know how to handle them safely," said Sheriff Smith.
Some school safety experts question the wisdom of integrating firearms training, and worry that the responsibility could cause 'undue stress or harm,' according to the report.
"Are police tasking teachers to perform a law enforcement responsibility by arming them to protect others? We have to be cautious of what we ask people to do in these traumatic, stressful situations, said school safety expert Ken Trump, who works for the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services.
Miramontes, the Utah school psychologist disagrees - saying the training made her feel empowered.
"I know how to protect myself and my students now; I know what to expect if the worst happens," she said.
At the recent session, officers showed teachers how to disarm a gunman, where to shoot on the body, how to properly aim and unload a firearm. They also went over de-escalation techniques, self-defense and medical responses such as how to pack a wound and tie a tourniquet on a child.
Officers spent months designing the course and local businesses donated money and equipment. Attendees paid $20 to participate.
Between bites of pastries, teachers relayed their fears:
“Will the gunman leave after I shoot them?”
“How do I protect the children when they come?”
The sun stretched over the mountains as teachers put down their coffee and strapped into bulletproof vests, goggles and protective head gear. Above the ringing of gunshots, some teachers discussed summer vacation plans and classroom supply lists. -Associated Press
Utah special needs educator Sandy Grow of Lehi middle school said that the Sandy Hook and Parkland massacres left her feeling vulnerable at work.
"The idea of being trapped in a classroom with my students and not being able to protect them bothered me," she said. "I want to defend them and keep them safe, not be a sitting duck."