Ask a teacher or a school administrator how you prepare for the events that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th, and they’ll likely tell you you can’t.
“It just amazed me that somebody could do that to innocent people,” said Mike Akers, an IPS Principal at Broad Ripple Magnet High School.
“I felt like it stayed with me for two or three weeks just because it was such a heart wrenching situation,” said Eric McGaha, a sixth grade teacher at Northwood Elementary School in Mooresville.
Despite being unprepared emotionally, when Fox59 News sat down with teachers and principals from two very different schools, they told us that doesn’t mean they aren’t constantly trying to prepare to react to similar situations here.
“It does give you pause,” said Nancy Lafferty, a theater teacher at Broad Ripple Magnet High School. “It gives you reason to stop and assess your own setting. Am I safe? Are we safe at Broad Ripple magnet high school?”
Tricia Ferguson, principal at Northwood Elementary in Mooresville, agrees.
“The first thing that every administrator thinks is, ‘What would we do? How would we handle it? How would I handle it?'” Ferguson said.
Both IPS and Mooresville districts have been asking those questions long before the shooting in Connecticut. Each year Mooresville practices a full-scale emergency response and last spring it was Northwood Elementary’s turn for a simulated mass shooting, complete with victims, evacuations and a full response from local departments.
Ferguson says the assistance from local agencies is critical in her community.
“They know exactly what they’re getting into to because they’ve walked the halls,” Ferguson said. “They’ve checked the doors, and they’re who is going to get us out of that situation.”
Broad Ripple Magnet high school principal Mike Akers says emergency drills are more traditional at his school. They practice classroom lockdown procedures with the help of IPS police officers once a semester as required by state law.
“If it does happen, and we all pray that it never does, at least you have things in place,” Akers said.
He says the latest drill took place just two days after the shootings at Sandy Hook.
“We learned some things from that,” Akers said. “For example, we had two classes out on a field trip and they came back during the height of the lockdown.”
Lafferty says the drill took on new meaning for her and her students.
“They felt safer that I had thought through this and that I had a plan,” Lafferty said. “(The students) actually said, ‘What would you do? Would you protect us?’ I said, ‘Certainly I would protect you.'”
That question of protection has become a national debate following the shootings, but whether it’s the President pushing for gun control, or the NRA pushing for more armed presence in schools, the teachers and principals who spoke to Fox59 say there isn’t a simple solution.
“It’s not as simple as banning a certain type of gun,” Ferguson said. “It’s not as simple as putting a buzzer access in the door. There’s so many different things to consider, and what works for one school in Indianapolis might not work at all in Mooresville.”
Here’s one big example why: In Mooresville, the district pays for one armed security officer to patrol while school is in session, but that officer is responsible for all three schools on campus, with additional random patrols from Mooresville police. IPS has its own police force. Broad Ripple Magnet High School has three armed IPS officers each patrolling their own floor.
“I feel safe,” Lafferty said. “I feel comforted knowing that we have police officers with guns. I wouldn’t want to be carrying a gun, but I do feel comfortable knowing that they who are trained to do that have the correct equipment.”
Comfort often comes on a smaller scale in smaller school districts.
“You know, a locked door is going to be what we’re looking for,” Ferguson said.
When it comes to armed security officers, Ferguson says she and many others are hoping state and federal money is approved to enable her district to hire more. If that doesn’t come, she believes some smaller districts will at least consider arming teachers or administrators who are willing to undergo extensive training.
“It’s something that’s on people’s mind because in the situation in Connecticut, the Principal went running to the shots and she got killed,” Ferguson said. “If she had a gun, could she have stopped it? I don’t know. No one can say. I think if we look at that you have to have people who are highly trained and there has to be some very strict measures because you don’t want to take one tragedy, react uninformed and create a whole slew of new tragedies where you have the access of a gun.”
Indiana law already enables schools to designate teachers and/or administrators to carry guns in school.
On Wednesday night, Fox59 News will examine whether that could soon become reality in some districts and explain what some teachers and principals think about the possibility.