Professor prepares students for potential school shootings with RUPD lecture
With 52 school shootings nationwide in the last year, the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) is working to prepare students.
Every semester, sociology professor Lee Clarke has an RUPD officer come into his class and discuss what students should do in the event of an on-campus shooting situation.
RUPD is happy to teach students the protocols Rutgers police follow in an active shooter situation and what students should do to stay safe, Clarke said.
Clarke said recent lectures on shootings have been presented by Leo Tolosa, an RUPD officer and graduate of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations.
“I started this about 10 years ago when teaching an honors class about disaster and culture, and as part of the class, I have always used a segment on the Virginia Tech shooter situation,” Clarke said. “At that time, I had the Chief of Police come in.”
Clarke said, intellectually, his lectures teach that the real first responders are anyone who is on the scene. Students and professors are usually the first real responders to shooting incidents.
The official responders, such as police, are important because they are more likely to have weapons and they are the ones who will deal with a situation when it escalates, he said.
During the 2007 Virginia Polytechnic Institute campus shooting, it was students and instructors who barricaded doors, hid in closets and jumped out of windows. More than 30 people died during the attack, which remains the deadliest college shooting in American history.
There is also a practical side to knowing what to do, Clarke said.
“At Virginia Tech, there were students who never heard real gunfire,” Clarke said. “Some students went out into the hallway to find out what the commotion was about and they ended up getting shot.
He said it is important to make students aware of the potential scenarios that could occur in an active shooter situation.
“If they come on the scene and a student is shot and bleeding, but the threat has not been contained, (RUPD's) orders are to step over that person. Not because they don't care, but because they have to neutralize the threat,” Clarke said.
When RUPD comes on the scene, it has to assume anybody it sees could be the active shooter, he said.
The priority should be to run away from the shooter, and fighting should be a secondary concern, he said.
“Teach situational awareness, like using a fire extinguisher as a weapon,” Clarke said. “If you have a guy like at Virginia Tech, Connecticut or Colorado at the movie theater, you might get shot but it might be your last chance to protect yourself.”
Despite endorsing the "run, hide and fight" strategy, Clarke said he does not feel that students should be allowed to carry firearms on campus to protect themselves.
Clarke said he is confident in law enforcement because they are well trained.
Clarke said he hopes that his message extends to other classrooms on campus so more students are aware of what to do in a campus shooting situation. He said although the chances of an active shooter are low, the consequences could be high.
“K-12 schools don't want to do it because they don't want people to be worried,” Clarke said. “If you live in California, they teach you what to do if an earthquake comes and if you live in Kansas, they teach you what to do in the event of a tornado.”
Nick Huber is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. He can be found on Twitter @njhuber95Huber.
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