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Active shooter protocols discussed at latest DHR conference

This article originally appeared in the Friday Aug. 9, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

With school shootings happening every month in the United States, school administrators and local law enforcement officials need to work together to reduce the risk of another deadly shooting.

That’s according to Philip J. Resnick, a psychiatrist who served as the keynote speaker at a conference last week meant to encourage dialogue on school shootings.

20190731 ActiveShooterConferenceResnick has served as a consultant on many high profile cases including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, the Unabomber Theodore Kaczyncski, Casey Anthony and James Holmes.

“In terms of risk of death, school shootings are a minor part of people being killed,” Resnick said. “When they occur, however, they are dramatic. They induce fear as totally innocent children are killed. When I was in school we only had fire drills to worry about. Now 95 percent of schools across the country have active shooter drills in case something happens.”

Resnick spoke at the conference “Active Threat, Active Shooter: When Despair Turns to Anger, on the Path to Violence Symposium” at the Edinburg Conference Center Wednesday, July 31. During Resnick’s 70-minute long presentation, the psychiatrist presented to attendees-mostly made up of local law enforcement officials and school administrators- with facts and statistics on school shooters.

The conference took place in the middle of week bookended by deadly mass shootings that killed 34 people in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio within a 24 hour period days after the conference and in a northern California festival on Sunday, July 28.

Sunday’s shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

Following Resnick’s speech, a panel composed of four other local professionals participated in a Q&A discussion to go over his presentation. Other presentations that occurred that day included a discussion on teens and cyber crimes, bullying and the importance of bystanders to know basic first aid to assist in a bleeding emergency before first responders arrive.

According to Resnick, though no useful profile on a school shooter exists, all school shootings have been committed by boys enrolled in the school with 75 percent of them saying they were victims of bullying.

Most have no criminal record and don’t “snap,” which Resnick says is a misconception that springs up by media outlets to describe shooters. Instead, shooters often plan their attacks as far as a year in advance and display an interest in school attacks, suicidal impulses and a “wish to solve an unbearable problem.”

Because of the increase in school shootings, the Texas Legislature approved House Bill 2195 and House Bill 496.

HB 2195 which requires school districts to create emergency policies to an active shooter and a threat assessment team to investigate potential threats. The other bill requires bleeding control stations to be established in all public schools, with students in the seventh grade and higher trained annually in the use of tourniquets, chest seals, compression bandages and gauze dressings.

These bills are set to go into effect September 1.

“Most first responders arrive at the scene in five minutes. A school shooting usually lasts three minutes,” Resnick said. “It is important to be as proactive as possible because sometimes, the actions of bystanders stepping in can prevent another death.”

Echoing Resnick’s point was Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Garcia, who routinely trains school administrators on safety protocols.

“We need to step it up and understand these incidents have been happening for a long time,” Garcia said. “People are in need of medical attention and we can’t as a society rely solely on first responders. We will get there, but you’re already there. We need you to prepare for our arrival.”

Other panelists included county District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez, Hidalgo County Judge Renee Betancourt and Mercedes ISD Superintendent Carolyn Mendiola. All five panel members stressed the importance of a working relationship between the community and law enforcement.

“This is the reality, we can’t turn a blind eye to it,” Mendiola said. “It’s important for us to pay attention and have our systems in place to avoid anything like this from happening to our schools. Reach out to law enforcement officers or school administrators if you see something, we don’t always see the signs.”

According to Resnick’s presentation, most shooters have a goal of becoming famous for their actions, whether or not they survive. This kind of mindset, Garcia said, is something that the public can help in demolishing.

“We need to make it known that we’re not going to be victims anymore,” Garcia said. “We need more people to commit to receive training for active shooter situations, be aware of surroundings and carry tourniquets. When we understand what it takes to survive these critical incidents and thrive in these environments, we take the power away from the people committing this. We take away from their success and slowly, change these trends. But we need to combat this evil together and make a change in the culture. We make it appropriate to not be victims anymore.”

Among those in attendance was Sharyland ISD Superintendent Maria Vidaurri who praised the conference for providing “eye opening” ideas.

“This continuous learning is the best thing that can help us,” Vidaurri said. “Every time a discussion like this occurs you end up learning something different to better prepare ourselves to better keep our students safe. Addressing the safety of our students is of the utmost importance.”

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