How training can save lives

As educators throughout the area prepared for the start of a new school year, many were involved in seminars and training sessions intended to help them do their jobs better. Team teaching, use of technology and how to deal with the newest state-mandated tests – which seem to change constantly – are among the subjects.

To those needs to be added at least a refresher course on self-defense.

A veteran Barbour County, W.Va., teacher, Twila Smith, was being hailed as a heroine Wednesday because of how she responded to a 14-year-old who walked into her classroom carrying a gun. He pointed it at her and took the teacher and some of her students hostage for a time.

School and law enforcement officials say the teacher managed to calm the boy down and keep him from taking even more hostages. In the meantime, she staved off panic among youngsters in her classroom.

Fortunately, other heroes, Philippi Police Chief Jeff Walters and clergyman Howard Swick, arrived quickly and were able to convince the boy to give up his weapon and surrender without harming anyone.

Law enforcement officers go to work each and every day prepared to deal with potentially violent situations. Teachers do not.

Educators do have an advantage over most of the rest of us, however. They are trained and experienced in using psychology to persuade children to learn.

Convincing a teenager to be quiet in class and do his homework is a vastly different proposition than “talking down” a disturbed, armed person, either juvenile or adult, however.

That is where training in dealing with such situations comes in. Beyond any doubt, it can mean the difference between ending a school invasion peacefully and having it turn into a bloody tragedy.

Virtually all educators have had at least some crisis training. But new teachers enter the field all the time. Experienced ones can benefit from refresher training and, perhaps exposure to new, research-based information. School boards and administrators should recognize that by providing regular “continuing education” that may not boost anyone’s grades – but may keep them alive to learn another day.