DENVER – While some teachers are vacationing or crafting lesson plans for next school year, others are spending their summer break at the shooting rage.
“I don’t have children of my own,” Fleming, Colorado agriculture teacher Kelly Blake told NPR between rounds at a Denver area shooting range, “so these students are my children.”
Blake was among 17 teachers and administrators who participated in a recent intensive training program called FASTER, an acronym for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response. The educators, from five different Colorado counties, each received $1,000 scholarships to cover the training from Coloradans for Civil Liberties, the Denver Post reports.
The goal of the week long training is to prepare school staff to respond to an active shooter scenario, and each of the participants already have concealed weapons and permits, and the approval of their local school boards.
Most came from rural districts that have designated staff as armed security to protect against the long response times for local law enforcement.
“To be realistic, from a police officer perspective, we simply are not going to be there in time,” said officer Graham Dunne, who came to Denver to help with the training.
In some areas of the state, it can take police up to 45 minutes to respond to a call, he said.
Chris Wallace, a 41-year police veteran, didn’t mince words in laying out what’s at stake.
“You will be killed if you do not fight,” he said as he showed FASTER participants slides of the aftermath of past mass shootings.
“Adult males will be tortured and killed,” he said. “Females will be raped and killed. There will be no mercy involved in these situations. There is no taking yourself out of these situations.”
Wallace told the Post FASTER has conducted similar trainings for nearly 900 school staffers in Ohio over the last five years.
Instructors explain how to approach and shoot an armed intruder, hand-to-hand fighting, emergency medical skills, and other life-saving strategies.
“We want to give them world-class training so they can stop active shooters in their school,” said Colorado for Civil Liberties co-founder Laura Carno, adding that the firearms training exceeds the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training minimums.
Fleming football coach and bus driver Scott Muller said his school district also administered psychological tests used in law enforcement to screen candidates to carry firearms on school grounds.
“The screening is pretty tough,” he told the Post. “I took a psychological screening, like other applicants. But some dropped out. And I can understand why. It’s tough that one day you may have to take down a student that you’ve known for a long time.”
Not all educators think that arming staff is a good idea, of course.
Denver kindergarten teacher Rachel Barnes told NPR she joined the ironically named national gun control group “Educators Demand Action” to push back against guns in schools.
“I think all teachers would prefer to be given the tools and resources to help our students, as opposed to being forced to shoot them,” she moaned.
One teacher who participated in the FASTER training seemed to agree, though she said she’d rather be prepared to take action if she’s ever put in that situation.
“I do understand that,” the unidentified teacher told NPR. “And can I desensitize myself and say, ‘Yes I will handle this correctly?’ I hope I can never answer that question for you.”
FASTER posted a blog about the increasingly popular training program on its website
“This summer we will conduct a record number of classes. We are doing our first out of state class in Colorado. In June we will conduct 4 three-day classes, at three different locations, in two different states, in a period of 8 days. This is only possible because of the dedication and enormous unpaid hours racked up by volunteers,” according to a FASTER blog.
“This year’s classes filled up earlier than ever. There are so many people that school districts are asking us to train that we added another class and still have a waiting list for people we couldn’t accommodate.”