MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Each time a school shooting happens, Minnesota school safety officials re-examine their own protocols.
Video of students filing out from a school shooting gives onlookers chills, leaving 17 of their peers behind forever. Their backpacks are tossed in a pile and hands are in plain view, because that is now violent intruder protocol.
Randy Johnson is the director of the Minnesota School Safety Center.
“These first responders, when they are responding to the scene, they are not quite sure what is the threat or who is the threat,” he said.
Minnesota hasn’t had a deadly school shooting since 2005 when seven students were killed in Red Lake. In 2003, two students were killed at Rocori High School.
As far as weapons in schools, numbers stayed almost stationary from 2012 through 2017. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in the 2012-2013 school year students were disciplined for weapons 1,321 times. In the 2016-2017 school year, students were disciplined 1,357 times.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the number of students saying they struggle with mental health or emotional issue has greatly incresed from 12.7 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2016.
And as school shooting scenes around the country play out, the Minnesota safety officials are watching.
“We’re always looking forward and we’re always learning from incidents that happen around the country and throughout the world,” Johnson said. “And being able to grab the best strategies and practices that we do learn from these situations and make a direct application into our own context.”
This is personal for a Minnesota mother of three who had a weapon found in her student’s school last year. Amy Teague responded with grief to the Florida shootings.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “They need better security systems.”
The state safety center says they recently changed focus from focusing on lockdowns to focusing escape routes after students are locked down. They’re constantly trying to think about the unthinkable.
“I pray to God that nothing ever happens to my kids and you know that this stops,” Teague said.
Two other recent practices Minnesota schools — teaching more de-escalation skills if someone does become violent and learning to spot a threat before something happens.
State law requires schools to do five violent intruder drills a year. There is no agency that holds them officially accountable so it is completely up to school to stay on track.