Rockbridge County takes on new approach for active school shooter situations

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. – Rockbridge County students come to school every single day to learn, and now they're being asked to grasp a completely new concept.

It used to be that they were told to hide in place in the classrooms if an intruder came into the school. Now they're being asked to think about what they would do to defend themselves.

"It is proven that in a violent critical incident survival decreases when you huddle in a corner," according to one of the Alice training videos. 

It's a complete change of thinking in Rockbridge County schools, and students who fill these classrooms need to be in the know.

"That A, we have a plan and B, they're part of the plan," said Angie Wilder, Alice training member with Rockbridge County schools. "They need to know even as young as a first-grader, what happens if someone comes into my building that I don't know."

The division recently signed on with Alice Training Institute, which teaches people to be disruptors in an incident. It's a school of thought that urges preparedness and making purposeful choices.

"All students at a very young age... they understand what to do in a fire drill. We want them to understand that if there is something outside of a fire drill and it's (a) danger to just get away and go for help," said Sgt. Hugh Ferguson, the school resource officer at Rockbridge County High School. 

School leaders started training months ago and Wednesday night was the next step in the process. Parents are getting a look at what their kids will go through if they were to need to act quickly in danger.

"There's always a time delay and in those few minutes before the first responders arrive on scene, the students and the staff can do some things and make some personal choices that will help them survive a critical incident," said Ferguson. 

It's training they hope they'll never have to see put to use in these classrooms. But as false threats consume social media more frequently, they can never be too ready.

"We investigate every single thing that's reported to us, even if it's reported by a friend of a friend of a friend that says I kind of think I thought I saw this on the bus over somebody's shoulder, we look because sometimes that's the only way we hear about it," said Wilder. 

The first full-scale drill involving students, faculty and staff is set for later this spring. It will happen across all the schools. The school division then expects to have one of these drills at least once a year.

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