Believing students are a school’s first line of defense against potential threats to safety, the La Cañada Unified School District has begun training high school students about what to look for and how to respond when things just don’t seem right.
Last week, La Cañada High School began a series of lectures whose aim is to get kids thinking about how they can better defend their campus and what they should do if and when danger strikes. Held during the school’s enrichment period, the brief tutorial packed kids into the LCHS auditorium.
“All of you guys are what we call a security data point,” said Peter Crabbe, senior consultant and trainer for security training firm Chameleon Associates, in a lecture to juniors last Thursday. “You have brains, you have eyes, you have ears—you hear things, you see things and you notice things.”
Crabbe explained the school district is moving away from reactive security and implementing an “adversarial based security” methodology that attempts to detect and report suspicious behaviors and potential bad actors before something like an active shooter scenario occurs.
The juniors learned about identifying threats that come from both outside and inside the campus, and those that have elements of both, such as a disgruntled spouse of a school employee seeking to inflict harm. Crabbe taught students to look for actions and behaviors that fall outside the typical school day.
“You can be really helpful as security data points in the detection aspect of pre-attack,” he said. “I want to get you guys in detection mode.”
Crabbe dispelled some common misconceptions about school shooters, namely that they are loners who suddenly snap. Most experience multiple life stressors and tend to exhibit troubling behavior, on average giving four to seven such “hints” in the year or two before an actual attack.
With just 30 minutes to impart years of advice Crabbe explained what to do in the event of an active shooter situation. He described a repeating “OODA” loop of emergency responses — observe, orient yourself, decide and act — and said shooters use the same process.
He advised students to get behind a locked door and arm themselves with nearby objects. Failing that, Crabbe said, students should put as much time and distance between themselves and the shooter as possible.
“If you can see the gun, the gun can see you,” he warned.
LCHS Assistant Principal Kristina Kalb, who also serves on a districtwide safety and security task force, said Chameleon Associates has been training teachers and administrators on security response and is now focusing on tips teens can take out into their own lives.
“We want to make sure they have the information to be smart and safe and protect themselves if they’re ever in a situation,” she said.
Juniors Diego Osorio-Lowry and Sam Hernandez said the OODA loop was a memorable tool for responding to a crisis scenario.
“It’s always in the back of our minds that something could happen,” Osorio-Lowry said.
Gracie Bernstein said she’d already learned a lot about safety, but thought Thursday’s talk was a good primer.
“It’s important for a lot of students, because faced with that situation, you can freeze,” she said. “It’s helpful to have strategies.”