People are understandably freaked out in the wake of more school shootings, and many school systems are scrambling to figure out how to keep their students, teachers, and staff safe. Now, one superintendent at a Pennsylvania school district thinks he has the solution: arm students with rocks.
David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, told state lawmakers earlier this week that in the event of a shooting, his students will use rocks to protect themselves. “Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone. If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned,” he said, per WNEP 16.
Helsel said he came up with the idea himself and chose river stone because the rocks are “the right size for hands, you can throw them very hard, and they will create or cause pain, which can distract.” According to Helsel, teachers, staff, and students in his district were given active-shooter training through a program known as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), and they regularly hold evacuation drills for active-shooter simulations.
This isn’t the first line of defense, Helsel says, but it could be one tool in their arsenal. “We have devices installed in our doors that help to secure them, to make it very difficult to break through,” he said. “We also train kids and talk about barricading the doors.”
Helsel did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
While the idea is definitely creative, experts aren’t impressed. “This is ridiculous,” John Matthews, executive director of the Community Safety Institute and a former chief of police, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s next to the idea of throwing canned vegetables.” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which works closely with Everytown to fight gun violence, agrees. “I think this is a really bad idea,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the country should be working to disarm dangerous people — not give kids rocks, she says. “The idea that rocks are going to protect children from gunmen is an absurd idea,” Watts says. “People are looking to solutions that are ineffective because they are reticent to try data-driven solutions that are proven to work, like stronger gun laws.”
Instead of rocks, Matthews recommends realistic training for staff and students on what to do during an attack prior to police arrival, as well as proactive campus safety teams who make “pragmatic recommendations” based on each individual campus.
Watts says armed school resource officers or security officers may help somewhat if they’re well trained and have completed background checks, but they’re not necessarily enough to take on a gunman who has access to semiautomatic weapons. “This is not happening in other high-income countries — this is a problem unique to schools in America,” she says. “We have so many guns and so few gun laws.”
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