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Safety first: Mustang school administrators train with Oklahoma School Security Institute

Administrators and Law Enforcement participate in Gary Shelton’s presentation assessing crises situations at the Mustang Performing Arts Center. The presentation walked through past crises situations in the United States and showed the way schools should have responded to the situation. (Photos by Jacob Sturm)

By Jacob Sturm

Taking safety precautions to heart is never a bad thing.

For Mustang Public Schools administrators, that opportunity for application to safety precautions came through training with the Oklahoma School Security Institute on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 in the High School and Performing Arts Center.

Administrators first listened to a lecture from Gary Shelton, who walked the group through the Parkland school shooting situation and had them assess the situation from what the teachers and Law Enforcement officers knew before the incident.

Shelton referenced the saying “kids won’t learn if they don’t feel safe in school” during the discussion and lecture.

More than 60 administrators and law enforcement officers were present.

Then, administrators split up into three groups and went to different areas of the high school to get an idea of what a gunshot would sound like in the buildings. Shelton brought shot boxes, which use air to simulate the sound a gun would make.

The simulation showcased how loud shots were without many barriers blocking the sound from echoing far. Then, Shelton moved the crowd into a different room and did the same simulation. The results showed how hard a gunshot could be to identify when tons of children are in the same space.

With the recent shooting at Uvalde on everyone’s mind, Jennifer Newell, who was the Oklahoma School Security Institute’s first program manager, said the simulation and training had been planned before the events in Texas.

She also mentioned previous years versions of the presentation fired rounds of munition as the example. The rounds proved messy and could be seen as more real, and therefore more terrifying for those witnessing the example.

“No matter what, even if we say ‘we’re getting ready to set this off so you know it’s coming’, your brain is going to go ‘that doesn’t sound like what I thought it was going to sound like,’” Newell said. “And then they’re going to realize that they’re not going to know what direction those (shots) are coming from.”

Toby Blair, Mustang Central Middle School Principal, mentioned seeing different situations and learning how the schools could improve on responses. He said things they assess in these situations is difficult to answer fully since so many different things are going on in the same time frame.

That makes partnerships between different groups crucial.

“It starts with a plan of different scenarios and different ways that we will address things,” Blair said. “And so, from today what we’re looking at really is once again partnership. That’s a unique element that we have lots of discussions about, security on a regular basis, but now we’re getting input from multiple agencies, as well.”

Blair said he looks at the lessons to learn from the training and emphasized the comprehensive the response to different situations can be.

OSSI was signed into law on April 17, 2013 by Gov. Mary Fallin and was established as an official division of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security on July 1, 2013.

Goals and objectives of OSSI include Maximizing school security training and support to Oklahoma Schools, assisting and coordinating with Oklahoma education professionals for development and implementing school safety drills, coordinating partnerships to continue development of strategies and techniques for school security and facilitating programs specializing in school security issues.

MPS has been proactive in training for responses to emergencies like school shootings. With Wednesday’s training, that will remain the case, and in the long run, the district will be all the better for it.

Shelton sets up a gunshot box to simulate the sounds in the school. The group heard the noise and then went into the library to emphasize the difference in sound when a wall is between the people and the sound.

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