Police train educators for school shootings.

August 31, 2022

Officers Steve Case (Scottville Police Department) and Joe VonDrak (Shelby Police Department) work with Shelby educators.

Police train educators for school shootings.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

SHELBY — Shelby educators and support staff were students for the day while local law enforcement officers were the teachers Tuesday, Aug. 30, during an active shooter training session.

The valuable training exercise just prior to the start of the school year involved six area law enforcement agencies in a two-county area including the Shelby Police Department, Oceana County Sheriff’s Office, the Hart post of the Michigan State Police, Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Ludington Police Department and Scottville Police Department.

“The sheriff and I are both passionate about school safety,” said Oceana County Undersheriff Ryan Schiller, who leads the program. “This is a great time of the year to reexamine things and make sure that we’re doing what is best for all of our schools and how we can help them have a safer school year. Today was about staff and how the school responds to an active shooter or an active threat and what actions they can take to create a better outcome.

“The intention is to make sure everyone is comfortable with the plan should we ever have to endure one of those tragic days,” said the undersheriff. “It’s creating that partnership between the schools and local law enforcement at every level so they know that we are there for them.

“For schools nationwide, there is a lot of stress and anxiety — rightfully so — when it comes to thinking about ‘what if this happens in our town?’ So today was really about giving them some confidence and training into how they can overcome one of those bad days.

“Mr. Olmstead is passionate about school safety and preparation,” said Schiller of the school district’s new superintendent Mark Olmstead. 

Shelby Middle School teacher Brianne Lentz uses a chair leg to block MSP Trooper Todd Goodrich — playing the role of the “bad guy” — from entering a classroom during a training exercise.

The school leader said it’s important “to have our staff use similar language and have similar expectations and a similar understanding of how to react to keep the kids safe, as well as employees, in a difficult situation.”

The half-day training began with a presentation from Michigan State Police Sgt. Dan Thomas about the principles of “Run, Hide, Fight,” said Olmstead. After a general assembly in the school auditorium to kick things off, staff reported to their buildings to work on safety tactics with the police. 

“Staff could ask questions of law enforcement and run through scenarios of what to do when a threat may be present — given whatever details the situation might be — and how to react within the work environment they work in on a regular basis. Any threat is what we focus on.” Olmstead said the training focused not only on active shooters, but also other dangerous threats schools may encounter.

Michigan State Police Trooper Todd Goodrich instructs the Shelby Middle School educators.

Shelby had performed school safety training five years ago, and Olmstead decided it was time to do it again so new staff members can be trained.

Officers taught ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) to the teaching staff, but this time around the school leader directed the support staff — bus drivers, teacher’s aids, administrative assistants, food service workers, custodians, etc. — to be included in the training.

“About five years ago, we did ALICE training to help people remember what to do and what options exist when there is a threat present in and around a school facility,” said the superintendent. “This is the five-year anniversary, so we thought after five years, it would be good to have a district-wide refresher and introduction to new staff who weren’t around for the original training.”

“We are happy to partner with any of the school districts if they ask,” said the undersheriff. “We’ve trained with Hart and some of the other districts as well. We have a very active school safety committee in Oceana County that includes all of law enforcement and all of the school districts, including Oceana Christian and New Era Christian. Everyone has invested into it and is an active participant. Everybody in public safety — police, fire and EMS — all have a representative there including 911.” The committee meets monthly.

“I am very thankful for the training put on by Mason County and Oceana County sheriff’s departments and the state police,” said Shelby Police Chief Steve Waltz. Having new staff trained and veteran staff members “re-acquainted” with the program is crucial to school safety, he said.

The next training session will likely be a “full-fledged” exercise involving firefighters, paramedics and 911 dispatchers, said Schiller. Although it’s an emotional and frightening topic, it’s necessary. “It’s unfortunate that we have to talk about these things with teachers.” 

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Staff throw plastic balls at the “intruder” to simulate throwing a heavier object at a school shooter, like a laptop, lamp, cell phone, etc.

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