Texas School District Learning to Fight Back Against School Gunmen

The Independent School District of Burleson, Texas, just south of Ft. Worth is the first in the country to adopt a policy of training students to immediately fight back and use their advantage in numbers to take tactical control if a gunman enters their classroom.

A group of Texas security experts with a company called "Response Options" has made instructional video tapes showing a gunman bursting into a classroom and being swarmed by students. The instructors tell students to throw their books, book bags, desk and chairs using everything and anything to disrupt and take down a gunman.

Robin Browne, a major with the British Army, helped design the training course and says it is necessary for students and teachers to throw themselves into the line of fire.

"This is not a burglar. This is not a bank robber," Browne said. "This is someone who has come onto school property with the express intention of using a deadly weapon to hurt and dominate people who cannot necessarily defend themselves."

A person who enters a school, Browne said, "is in the same category as serial killers."

"We are dealing with a predator here and a predator, when he is offered prey and the prey gives in will take advantage of that prey," he said. "What we are teaching here is for the children to not allow the predator to take control. … They actually become the superior the dominant party in the room, and it is actually the gunman who becomes the prey."

A Lesson From Columbine and Other School Shootings

Browne says waiting for police to take control is a deadly mistake and says that 15 people who died and 24 were injured at Columbine as police struggled to take control. By the time police responded the hostage at the Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Penn., students and school officials had lost control and ultimately, five girls died and the gunman, Charles Roberts, killed himself.

"If you have got 15 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, they can be an incredibly effective weapon," Browne said.

Burleson has 14 schools and 8500 students and the independent school district hopes to have every student trained to respond to a gunman by the end of 2007.

The program costs about $15 per child and so far parents, teachers and students have expressed their support for this take charge policy.

"I think the policy is really smart, it is just like 9/11 when they were on the plane," said high school senior Terry Lucas.

Endangering Students?

The students are instructed to respond the instant they see a threat.

"It doesn't give the guy any time to try to collect his thoughts, you just storm him and start hitting him with stuff," said one student, Ray Longo.

So far parents, teachers and students support Burleson's take charge policy. But outside of Burleson, Texas safety experts are appalled at the notion of students being trained to storm a person with a weapon.

"When it comes to fighting an attacker even swat teams have a hard time knowing what to do. How can we expect kids to know what to do," said Ronald Stephens, executive director of National School Safety.

Stephens also says the child who leads the charge is most vulnerable.

"Rushing a gunman with scissors or staplers or a book might cause a gunman to shoot that person on the spot," he said.

Browne concedes that his program of fighting back carries risk. He admits that the first student to swarm an attacker may pay with his or her life. However, he believes the risk may be worth it to save other lives.

"He won't be able to shoot the fourth, fifth, eighth, twentieth or thirtieth student," he said.

To learn more about the program, click here.