Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 12, 2013

Paoli principal first for safety honor

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Even the most seasoned first responder will admit there are certain moments of tragedy where one can never feel fully prepared and as recently as a year ago, it would have still even been less likely for someone like a school administrator.

However, motivated to try and prevent dark events like Sandy Hook being repeated in at least one Garvin County community, Paoli High School Principal David Morris decided to take such preparation a step further recently and is now the first in at least the region to have completed response to an active shooter training course.

On hand to comment and present an award for the accomplishment was Paoli Police Chief Johnny Turner, who was thrilled at the precedent set with hopes of the impact spreading further yet.

“It’s a school that’s been going on for many years actually… we’d asked all the administrator’s that wanted to go if they could go and Mr. Morris was the first one able to go and wanted to go,” said Turner, noting how the course actually first started after Columbine. “We’re really tickled that he took the lead and wanted to go and he was very excited to go and honestly it’s out of his element.”

The two day event was hosted by the Lindsay Police Department as well as other related entities involved in Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at the high school there and was set up to simulate scenarios as if one were dealing with shooters in real time.

The lessons Morris picked in the 16 hours taken helped him put in things in a brand new perspective was a world different than just sitting around and discussing how to respond, be it a school shooter or even terrorism.

“If anything it makes you realize we’re all in this together… we have to be,” said Morris, who is even considering taking his preparation a step further by going into deputy reserve training through the sheriff’s department. “It gave me a different look on what needs to happen at schools.”

The biggest differences for Morris was seeing first-hand what it was like being under fire, albeit replacing actual ammo with rubber bullets or paint pellets and wearing protective gear like a facemask, and footage from events like Columbine that is too raw for people to handle in news broadcasts.

He hopes it is something all administrators decide to do and answered a lot of questions he had beforehand.

“The thing about it is it gave me an insight as to what to expect if something does happen, what we as a school are expected to do and not do,” said Morris, adding how he thinks as educators they need to do everything possible to protect their children.

“Through multiple different scenarios they actually used Glock firearms provided by Glock… it was extremely educational, it also brought home that we need to take it seriously.”

In the end, Turner believes it was instrumental and hopes more administrators and even other emergency officials like firefighters inquire as there will be more of these training exercises in the future.

Like Morris they will be welcomed with open arms and may even encourage them to implement new procedures improve their security on campuses.

“No one can imagine someone going in and killing 20 kids… I was just as shocked as the rest of the country,” said Turner. “It’s not foolproof, but it’s a long way from what we’ve come from.”