Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 25, 2015

Run, hide, and fight amateur hour in homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 25, 2015

(Excerpted from Oregon Live, April 21, 2015)

Teacher terrified by surprise ‘active shooter’ drill in eastern Oregon schoolhouse files federal lawsuit

Elementary school teacher Linda McLean sat at her desk on a calm blue-sky Friday afternoon nearly two years ago when she heard the clatter of what sounded like a falling ladder, followed by running feet.

A man dressed in a black hoodie and goggles suddenly burst through her classroom door. He leveled a pistol at McLean’s face and pulled the trigger. The terrified teacher heard gunfire, smelled smoke, felt her heart racing, she says.

“You’re dead,” the gunman said, and stalked out of her room.

But McLean was alive. The hooded man’s gun was loaded with blanks, part of a surprise “active shooter” drill at Pine Eagle School District No. 61, a charter school in the tiny eastern Oregon town of Halfway. The gun-toting man was Shawn Thatcher, the school district’s safety officer.

McLean was a casualty of what she now describes in a federal lawsuit as a harebrained drill in the middle of an in-service day – April 26, 2013 – that has left her with post-traumatic stress disorder….

The drill at Pine Eagle School District caught staffers at the school off guard, McLean’s lawsuit alleges.

Members of the district’s Safety Committee notified the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and its 911 dispatch center in advance of the drill so that they wouldn’t respond to an emergency at the school in case any of the school staff called.

The sheriff’s office also reviewed concealed-carry permits ahead of the drill to ensure that no teachers would fire back at Thatcher and school board member John Minarich, who also was armed and similarly attired.

Minarich was described in court papers as the principal and president of Alpine Alarm.

Thatcher and Minarich are accused of storming into several schoolrooms that day pointing their weapons at surprised teachers, firing blanks, and declaring them dead.

“Panic ensued,” according to McLean’s lawsuit. One teacher wet her pants. Another teacher tried to keep Minarich from entering his room and scuffled with the school board member, leaving the teacher’s arm injured. Some teachers fell down trying to hide.

“McLean could not figure out what was going on,” the complaint alleges. “She felt very confused. Her heart was racing. She walked out of the classroom and saw a pistol lying on the ground. … She wondered if she was really shot and was going to die.”

For an instant, McLean alleges, she thought perhaps it was OK to die. Then she thought about her daughter, who was pregnant, and grew angry that she wouldn’t be around to help with the new baby.

“She looked at the pistol and wondered if she was supposed to pick it up and shoot someone,” the lawsuit alleges….

— Bryan Denson

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4 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 25, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

Liability may turn on whether there is a prevailing STANDARD OF CARE for active shooter events/incidents for both k-12 and HIGHER-ED!Department of Education has provided over $1B since 2002 in preparedness grants for k-12. Not sure of results.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 25, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country…Hermann Göring

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 27, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

Labeling this amateurish really doesn’t cover it. This was an outrageously inappropriate act on the part of the school district involved. First, factors that influence the extent of trauma generated by an event include intentionality, sense of powerlessness, degree of realism, and how close one feels they were to dying. This event fails miserably on all counts.

Second, the whole event, from the way it was designed and implemented, to the school principal’s dense, unrelenting responses to criticism about it, really perpetuate what I call the myth of extreme readiness that we’ve been increasingly hounded with by the homeland security end of homeland security since its inception. This over-emphasis on preparedness and response at the expense of prevention and mitigation measures, which typically offers much better outcomes bang for bang and buck for buck, especially in terms of overall body count, both leaves people with a false sense of safety as well as ultimately often just ends up blaming the victim in many situations.

It is also a great example of how the domination of traditional professional emergency management policies and practices since the inception of DHS and by HS culture and values, with its often dramatically unrepresentative promulgation of a constant “threat” environment, has both poisoned our sense of proper protocols and boundaries and eroded our understanding, practice and overall social memory of a many aspects of EM – including simple exercising for emergency responses. Unfortunately, I will also say that I don’t really see this event being particularly less competent (ie., more amateurish) than most of what is being offered up by the supposedly professional HS establishment, especially as it relates to counterterrorism.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 28, 2015 @ 8:49 am

NO NOTICE EXERCISES DO HAVE VALUE BUT PRIOR TRAINING SHOULD BE ACCOMPLISHED.

IMO THE LAWSUIT WILL FAIL BECAUSE THE DECISION WAS DISCRETIONARY SUIT LIKELY TO BE DISMISSED FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION.

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