Tex. Teens Learn How to Survive a Shooting
San Antonio Express-News
Aug. 14—The casual chatter between parents and children gathered in a Northwest Side church quickly turned to silence as images of students and teachers killed at Sandy Hook and other mass shootings flashed on three large screens before them.
It was a solemn reminder of the harm a mass shooter can inflict.
The presentation was part a course geared toward teens on what to do during a mass shooting incident. About 200 people showed up for it Monday evening at City Church, 9439 Bandera Road.
Teens are "the ones who have been affected by a lot of the mass shooting situations across the country," Sheriff Javier Salazar said. "We believe that giving them the tools that they need to help keep themselves alive and to avoid that panic that criminals count on, they can stay alive until we get there."
During Monday's program, Deputies Joseph Rodriguez and Gus Trevino guided the audience through what occurred in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 in Colorado, listening to a 911 call between teacher Patti Nielson and dispatchers as she told students to stay down.
They also pointed out that during the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas in November and in the Sutherland Springs attack, many people were lying on the ground as part of a natural response to hide or play dead.
But the deputies told students they need to take a different approach: Run.
"You go, you run," Rodriguez said, reminding them to zigzag. "When you run, you put yourself in a higher survival bracket."
It was an unexpected message for parent Chelsea San Miguel.
"I always told the kids to lay down and play dead; now they need to run."
Chelsea and Natashia San Miguel brought their two children to see the presentation. Their 13-year-old daughter is going to eighth grade and their 9-year-old son is starting fourth grade.
San Miguel said even though her son was not yet a teenager, she felt it was important for him to learn what the deputies were teaching because elementary students have also been targeted.
Since shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; the massacre in Parkland, Fla., at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; and, closer to home, the May 18 killing of eight students and two teachers at Santa Fe High School, local schools have been crafting procedures to either prevent or handle a shooter on their campuses.
The North East Independent School District now requires students to have clear backpacks. Judson Independent School District has even crafted emergency protocols between its police agency and the Bexar County Sheriff's Office for faster response times.
Kristi Villanueva, president of the West Side Chamber of Commerce, has worked with the Sheriff's Office to offer the active shooter training classes to the public. She said many attendees had expressed interest in bringing their children but were concerned that some of the content may not be appropriate for them. That led to the development of Monday's program.
The two deputies stressed that an attack can occur anywhere and that a gun isn't the only deadly weapon.
Salazar said the course also focuses on teaching a process called avoid, deny, defend.
"If gunman runs in door A and you can run out door B, you can avoid the danger altogether," Salazar said.
As for deny, people are taught to keep the attacker from reaching them if they can't get away.
"Tie (the door) shut with a belt if you have to; lock it with chairs," Salazar said.
If the first two fail, he said, the final option is defense -- and that means teaching people to defend themselves by any means necessary.
"If you're defending yourself with scissors or a fire extinguisher, or you're organizing a group to attack ... then you're doing what you can to stay alive," Salazar said. "We tell people to fight like you're fighting the devil himself -- because you are."