Nation & World

Sticks and stones? Schools get unusual weapons to fight shooters and ridicule ensues

The Millcreek Township School District in Erie, Penn. has drawn scorn by giving 500 teachers miniature baseball bats as part of its school shooter policy.
The Millcreek Township School District in Erie, Penn. has drawn scorn by giving 500 teachers miniature baseball bats as part of its school shooter policy. Twitter/The Hill

A school district in Erie, Penn., armed about 500 teachers with miniature baseball bats last week during training on how to respond to school shootings.

The 16-inch wood bats, like ballpark souvenirs, were meant to remind teachers that in a shooting situation they should flee when they can, but fight back when they must, reported GoErie.com.

As a last resort, school officials said, the mini bats can also be used as weapons.

All 470 of the district’s teachers received the bats on April 2, a school official told The New York Times. Teacher's aides, administrators and building staff got one, too. They're kept under lock and key so they don't fall into what district officials called the wrong hands.

“The bats are more symbolic than anything,” William Hall, superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District, told GoErie.com. “However, we do want to have one consistent tool to have at somebody’s disposal in a classroom in the event they have to fight.”

Jon Cacchione, president of the Millcreek Education Association, the teachers union, supports the miniature bat plan, saying they remind teachers to fight back if they must, he told Erie.com.

“It’s to make people comfortable with the idea that they can attack and not simply go into hard lockdown and just hide, as we’d been told in our training up to this point,” Cacchione said.

The teachers might like them, but the bats have drawn ridicule on social media. People are leaving nasty messages on the district's Facebook page. Twitter has been especially savage.

Why not drop an anvil on top of the shooter?

Or a piano?

Better still, paint a black hole on the wall and trick the shooter into leaving the building.

Hall told The Washington Post that the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, prompted the district to revisit its policy for responding to a shooter situation.

"We had basically adopted the 'just lock the doors and turn the lights out and hide' approach in terms of the response," he said, adding that the district's new modified plan includes not just hiding but also running and, as a last resort, having to fight if necessary, using anything close by as a weapon or for self-defense.

“We don’t want to be sitting ducks,” he told the Times this week. “We’re not just going to go hide.”

This emphasis on putting up a fight prompted another Pennsylvania school district to arm its teachers and students with 5-gallon buckets of river stones to use as a last resort against a shooter. Every classroom has one of the buckets of rocks.

The superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia, said throwing rocks is more effective than crawling under desks and waiting, and gives teachers and students a way to fight back.

Staff and students in the Blue Mountain district have been trained in a program called "ALICE," an acronym for "alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate," according to The Chicago Tribune.

The method is taught by the private Alice Institute in Medina, Ohio, which encourages shooting victims to throw things — books, chairs, whatever's handy — at a shooter if they can't escape or hide.

The rocks, superintendent David Helsel told the Tribune, are part of the "counter" aspect — fighting back at a shooter who enters a classroom.

As for the bats, they cost the district $3 each.

Superintendent Hall knows they are no match for a semiautomatic gun.

But still, he told the Times, “I think a bat could disarm a pistol with a nice swing.”

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