PORT ANGELES — School districts from across Clallam County have asked the Sheriff’s Office to help with training students and staff in the wake of the latest mass school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., last month.
“Everybody has been getting a hold of us to do active shooter training … since the incident in Florida,” said Sgt. Randy Pieper of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
Most school administrators do not know of student plans for walkouts. A Facebook page by students at Port Angeles High School tells of plans for a walkout on April 20.
The Sheriff’s Office has been leading active shooter training for the last 15 years. In recent years, training sessions have increased in size and scope to include local, state and federal agencies.
First responders practiced full-scale responses to Peninsula College in Port Angeles last year and Greywolf Elementary School in Sequim the year before, and are now preparing for a mass casualty training at Clallam Bay School in August.
Pieper said the training is conducted “basically with no budget,” but he’s looking to expand training efforts to include what he calls “mini drills.”
This would involve deputies going into schools, seeing what plans are in place and sharing best practices.
“What one school does, another might need a modification,” he said. “We’ll try to reach all the schools.”
Among the schools to request training from the Sheriff’s Office recently is Crescent School in Joyce.
Dave Bingham, the school’s superintendent and principal, said students have raised concerns about the school’s security.
Like other superintendents across the county, Bingham did not want to talk too specifically about Crescent School District’s plans in case of an active shooter, but he did say the school district is reevaluating its current plans.
“Since the Florida shooting, I’ve been in contact with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and we are renewing our partnership, making sure people in the district and people in the Sheriff’s Department are on a first-name basis.”
Gary Neal, superintendent of the Sequim School District, said his district is constantly working with law enforcement to determine best practices.
He said the district revised its critical incident response plan last year, but he didn’t want to talk specifically about what those plans are.
“It’s a good story, but we want to be carefully how much information we give out,” he said.
Neal said that it’s “really the students that make the schools safe.
“We make sure that they understand if they see something, or they know of something that could be hazardous or unsafe, to let us know,” Neal said.
Katrina Campbell of Sequim, one of 600-650 students and staff at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, said some of her classrooms have small alcove-type areas where students can gather during lockdown drills and can’t be seen through the classroom windows.
Students are notified by cellphones for alerts and are automatically connected to the system unless they opt out.
“I don’t really have any concerns going to school here,” Campbell said. “As a community, we are pretty diligent trying to prepare.”
Lockdown security protocols include real-time communication with medical emergency and law enforcement authorities on where students are located and if they are safe or injured, campus Safety Operations Manager Marty Martinez said.
“After Parkland, we are tying to be realistic with our capabilities,” Martinez said, adding that a campus lockdown and active-shooter-drill video is in the works and is expected to be ready for fall-quarter students.
The shooting Florida sparked national youth-led conversation about about gun control and led to students across the country organizing walkouts, marches and protests.
Students at Port Angeles High School have created a Facebook event page for a student and teacher walk out slated for 10 a.m. April 20, though organizers could not be reached last week.
“We will meet across the street from the flag pole, and stand quietly and respectfully until school ends,” organizers wrote on the event page.
Port Angeles Superintendent Marc Jackson said the school district is trying to host a school-sponsored activity instead. The “walk in” would likely be held in the Port Angeles High School gym or auditorium.
“Students have an opinion on this,” he said. “Their colleagues in Florida are in the White House.
The Quillayute School District has had two of three planned yearly lockdown exercises since September, schools Superintendent Diana Reaume said.
She said that in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, Quillayute School District officials will meet with law enforcement officials from the Forks Police Department and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to review contingency plans for shooter events.
“We may be looking at providing more systemic training for staff,” Reaume said.
Reaume and Cape Flattery Schools Superintendent Michelle Parkin said they did not know of any students who are participating in the national school walkout at 10 a.m. March 14 being sponsored by the Women’s March’s Empower group or the March 24 “March for Our Lives” events in cities across the U.S.
Reaume and Parkin said if students participate in the walkout, it will be counted as an unexcused absence unless a parent signs them out of school.
“We absolutely will not prohibit students from doing this if they choose to do so,” Reaume said.
Parkin said Cape Flattery School District officials are looking at additional measures for protecting students in classrooms during active-shooter situations. She met with the School Board last week to discuss safety measures.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].