Training I hope we never have to use

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

I’m sure my facial expression matched those of the about 75 teachers and administrators at Valley Intermediate School last Tuesday as a man portraying a school shooter stormed into the room firing blanks into the air.

While Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kevin Turner was in the middle of explaining what the day would hold for the teachers gathered in the VIS auditorium, police psychologist Hank Paine caught all of us off guard when he burst through the door.

As Paine yelled while firing blanks into the air from his AR-15 rifle, a team from the Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Response Unit quickly moved through the room while demanding Paine drop his weapon. A few seconds later, Paine was in handcuffs and was being led from the room.

We were all there for a training exercise simulating a school shooting, but I don’t think any of us were expecting the level of realism the Sheriff’s Department brought to the table.

“It can happen in a second, just like that,” Turner said. “In real life, it won’t be as calm or as quiet as that was.

“Today, our goal is to make it as realistic as possible,” Turner added. “In SWAT, we don’t train by sitting in a classroom. We make it as real as possible.”

The scenario was one of several the Sheriff’s Office staged with the Shelby County School Board employees at VIS that day, and they were all equally realistic and terrifying.

I am glad our schools and law enforcement agencies are taking school security so seriously. The December school shooting in Connecticut is something I hope never happens again, and the February hostage incident at Chelsea Middle School hit way too close to home.

I applaud our school and law enforcement leaders for taking steps to prepare for and prevent these terrible things from happening in the future.

As I’m sure every parent in Shelby County would agree, I’m glad these measures are in place, but I hope we never have to utilize them.

Neal Wagner is the City Editor for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at neal.wagner@shelbycountyreporter.com.