Local districts discuss school safety and active shooters at second board academy session

O’Fallon Police Captain Jim Cavins spoke about the department’s involvement within the schools to the assembled board members at the second board academy session.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – School board members, superintendents and board candidates from local districts gathered at the O’Fallon Public Safety building to discuss school safety and security with law enforcement. 

The second School Board Academy session took place on Tuesday, March 26 and included representatives from District 90, District 203, District 85 and District 104. The O’Fallon Police Department spoke to those gathered about the importance of school security in today’s national climate. 

Captain Jim Cavins first spoke at the session about the O’Fallon P.D. and its involvement within the community and schools. Cavins pointed out the mission statement: “The O’Fallon Police Department is dedicated to proactively solving problems and protecting life and property through education, prevention and enforcement.  In striving to accomplish this mission, service to community is our commitment; honor and integrity our mandate.” 

Cavins then gave general information on the police department and its divisions, programs and organizations. 

O’Fallon Township High School School Resource Officer (SRO) Brian Riggar then spoke to board academy attendees about school safety and intruder defense training. 

Riggar is an officer assigned full time to District 203 throughout the school year. He is responsible for promoting positive relationships between O’Fallon P.D. and the students, parents and staff of the high school.

 A SRO’s responsibility is to assist the professional staff with the safety of students and staff, and also to evaluate the security of the facilities. 

Riggar said the elements of the intruder defense training is: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage. 

“This is what we teach to all schools — every school district in O’Fallon,” Riggar said.

The intruder defense training or — active shooter training — is necessary due to the steady incline of school shooters since the year 2000, Riggar said. 

Riggar said the instructional training is “not preventative, it’s saving lives.” “The goal is to save as many as we can.” 

The average response time from a police department to a school with an active shooter is three minutes, Riggar said. 

In an active shooter scenario, Riggar said your body will do one of three things: fight, flight or freeze.

Because of this, Riggar said the school community needs to be involved in training. 

Training in schools involves a powerpoint presentation for staff and then the police department will run drills recreating an active shooter scenario. 

While school lockdowns were mostly used in past active shooter situations, “it’s time to do something else, either flee or engage,” Riggar said. 

Riggar said active shooter training can be applied to multiple places like the movie theatre, restaurants, church and businesses. 

Riggar said if a staff member were to disarm an active shooter to place the weapon in a garbage can. 

According to Riggar, none of the four E’s: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage— are more important than the other. 

Dr. Darcy Benway, OTHS District 203 superintendent, said she thinks it’s important for board members to participate in the active shooter training if they are able to. 

“I think it’s very important for board members to participate because you are a vulnerable population when you are sitting in front of the public — sometimes board members have to make very difficult situations,” Benway said. “The public can become very angry.”

Benway referenced the Kirkwood City Council shooting that took place approximately 10 years ago that left six people dead. 

“It’s important that you start training your frame of mind as a board member,” she said. “Where are you going to go should someone come to a board meeting with the intent to do harm.”

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