W.Va. School Principals Learn How to Effectively Deal With a School Shooter

Dec 10, 2014

Principals listen to Lieutenant Eric Johnson discuss ideas for effective school shooter safety.
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

130 new school principals attended a training today in Charleston focused on effectively responding to an active shooter on school grounds.

In the aftermath of a number of school shootings throughout the country, the West Virginia Center for Professional Development hosted its two-day Principals’ Leadership Academy for new principals.

The academy brought in two officers to lead the discussion. Lieutenant Eric Johnson, the commander of the Metro Drug Unit and active shooter instructor for the Charleston Police Department was one of the instructors. He says if a person’s first thought is to hide when a shooter is at your school or business, they’re doing it wrong.

“We provide a simple acronym through this training," Johnson said, "It’s ADD, and that stands for Avoid, Deny, and Defend. The first step is to avoid the shooting, avoid the killing, get away, escape. If that’s not possible then deny entry into an area where you can get yourself and others secured, and if you cannot deny that entry, or if that comes to an end, then you need to defend yourself. If you cower to a corner, or if you hide, the statistics have shown through all these events that have happened in the last fifteen years that the killing will continue.”

Johnson says it’s very important for principals to know how to use the Avoid, Deny, and Defend tactic at their schools because it takes first responders at least 3 to 15 minutes to arrive depending on a school’s location. He says principals will have to take charge and make decisions quickly to protect as many lives as possible in those minutes.

Tawny Stilianoudakis is the principal of Buffalo High School in Putnam County.

“You can’t sit there, as the lieutenant said, you can’t always sit there and think everything through, because lives could be lost," Stilianoudakis said, "so you do have to have in your mind, played it out, and know exactly how you can react when those situations occur.”

Lieutenant Johnson says what will prepare schools the most is to ask when a shooting could happen, not if.