Could it happen here? Annie Wright administration has a plan


Allison Fitz

Two weeks ago on February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz stormed the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with an AR-15. He killed 17 students and teachers. It marked the 18th school shooting in the US in 2018 alone.

Some students, according to this CNN article, primarily thought it was a drill. The school was previously expecting an active shooter drill with police blanks in the near future.

The shooting initiated a national conversation about how to best prepare for such events. In a meeting at the White House, President Donald Trump called active shooter drills “a very negative thing.” Instead, he proposed “hardening” schools by giving “highly adept” teachers guns to intimidate and defend against school shooters. “They [the shooters] are not going to walk into a school if…the teachers have guns,” he said.

So, what is Annie Wright’s plan if an active shooter were to trespass on campus? Well, there is a “massive protocol,” according to Clare Wagstaff, Assistant Director of Middle School and Emergency Response Program Coordinator.

Annie Wright has adopted the Instant Command System, which is used nationally by all first responders to deal with any major emergency. Through this system, Annie Wright is divided into various crisis teams: crisis intervention, facilities and security, first aid, shelter and care, search and rescue, student release, and finance and documentation.

An emergency response handbook may be found in every classroom that gives distinct instructions for possible crisis situations.

Comprehensive faculty trainings happen multiple times a year. Each crisis team has met as a group. At the start of the school year the entire faculty undergoes a three hour training. They have had a detailed talk about what specifically might happen in the first seconds and minutes of a school shooting, and in April they will go through a role play of an actual incident.

The front desk staff, which controls who enters the building, has also been trained in how to deal with suspicious people or situations at the front door. This includes people who are already known in the community, but they might seem “agitated, irritated, or not in the right frame of mind,” said Wagstaff. Every Annie Wright faculty or staff member should always have their name tag on, and visitors are required to wear one as well.

Specific steps have also been taken in the case of an active shooter, as what happened in Florida. Solid black blinds, to provide uniformity, have been installed on every classroom and office windows. Keypads were installed this school year to ensure that external doors remain locked while not in use. The school has also registered with a program called Rapid Responder, which documents the layout of the school so that any first responders, especially those from outside counties that might be unfamiliar with the school, will be able to navigate the school.

Logistically, in the event of an intruder or active shooter, students would be transported off site to a safe location, maybe as far as the Tacoma Dome. Parents would pick their children up at this site to minimize traffic blockage near the school.

“There’s a lot happening to keep this school safe. I don’t think the kids normally know, and that’s partly to protect you…most of it’s scary, and [students] shouldn’t have to worry about that,” said Wagstaff. “I know some of the Upper School girls, I’ll be honest, don’t take the drills seriously at all. If this were to happen, you get off your phone, you go into the corner farthest away from the door, and you hide. And you are silent.”

“It’s horrible and I hope it never happens, and the likelihood is that it never will,” she continued, “but my job is to make sure that if the worst situation were to happen, we have a plan to keep our kids safe.”