Writer’s note: In last week’s article, the name of the school was spelled incorrectly. It should be Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
In last week’s article, I described the presentation that Max Schachter made to an audience made up of school employees, law enforcement, and concerned citizens. In this presentation, Schachter described the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which his son and sixteen other people died. I covered the story behind the killer and the actual tragedy. In this article, I’ll discuss the part of Schachter’s presentation in which he talked about the crusade that he and other parents have launched since the tragedy.
After the shooting took place, the families of the victims were angry that people in authority missed the warning signs surrounding the killer. They were also angry about the mistakes local law enforcement made after the 911 call came in. These mistakes caused delays in responding to the shooting. Thirdly, they were angry about the way school and law enforcement officials treated the families. Schachter stated that there was miscommunication, and the families felt that there was a lack of sympathy.
Once the initial shock, grief, and anger subsided, Schachter and some of the other families started various organizations and campaigns to try and make sure that something like this never happened again. Some of the students even went to Washington, D.C., and testified before Congress for the government to put in stronger laws to lessen the possibility of these tragedies happening.
Some of the changes that have occurred in Florida in the past five years due to his and other people’s efforts include an armed safety officer on every K-12 public school campus, a threat assessment team in every school, and a “See Something, Say Something” App statewide. Florida also has a mental health coordinator in every school district and an Office of School Safety.
Some other measures that have taken place are red flag laws that have saved many lives, active shooter drills, and family reunification plans to provide help and communication immediately after a tragedy like this. In addition, because it took so long to get paramedics to the scene, all deputies are equipped with first aid supplies like tourniquets. Hernando County has taken this one step further and is equipping classrooms with first aid supplies.
“I’ve been really impressed with the Hernando County School District with everything they’re doing regarding school safety. They’re taking this issue very seriously. I don’t know of another school district in the state that is doing a four-day school safety summit,” Schachter remarked.
The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was established in 2018 through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. This program is named after one of the teachers who died that day protecting his students. These guardians are a supplement to the School Resource Officers (SRO) since the SRO can’t be everywhere, especially on large campuses. Among the training they receive is 144 hours of firearms instruction (more than a police recruit).
In a chilling comment, Schachter stated, “The next school mass murderer is already out there.”
A video he showed to the audience demonstrated an important point about how to prepare if you encounter a mass shooting or, actually, any crisis situation. One method is something called “stress inoculation.” According to a website, “Stress inoculation is based on the premise that if we prepare for future moments that we’re stressed about in a proactive way, it may be easier to confront them when they occur.”
Simulation is another important technique. You rehearse both mentally and physically what actions you’d take if you found yourself in a situation like this so that you react instinctively.
Schachter has developed a website that people can access that shows all the threats or potential threats that have been reported by schools in Florida and several other states. These aren’t just shootings. They include bullying, fights, suspensions, and even vaping/smoking, as well as other incidents. The figures aren’t totally accurate because some schools under-report the incidents, but it does give an overview of how safe our schools are. You can search these statistics on the website’s dashboard using various filters, including by county, school, etc. Here’s the link: https://www.safeschoolsforalex.org/school-safety-dashboard/ In the very near future, it will be a requirement that schools update these threat assessments online every month.
Another useful URL is https://www.safeschoolsforalex.org/resources/ This link lists ways that teachers and administrators can make schools safer and ways that parents and students can improve the safety of their school. These are downloadable in PDF format. Among the other useful resources here are a video tutorial and a list of school shooter warning signs.
In every aspect, this seminar was invaluable for everyone. Max Schachter has given unselfishly of his time and energy for the past five years so that, hopefully, no other parent and family will go through what he and his family did.
Photos provided from Max Schachter