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After the false alarms: What we are doing going forward

As we returned to school Monday, Sept. 18 under a 2-hour delay, we would again like to sincerely apologize to students, staff and their families for the events of Friday, Sept. 15, in which a substitute teacher accidentally set off a pair of active shooter false alarms at Troy High School. 

We know how difficult this was for everyone involved, and for that we apologize. We also want to do everything we can moving forward to ensure this doesn’t happen again. 

We held a 2-hour delay Monday to allow staff members at all of our schools to meet and discuss last Friday’s events, as well as where we go from here. This time proved incredibly valuable to us as we were able to discuss what we can do to improve our alarm system, as well as a plan to discuss further training for students and staff.

A recap of Friday’s events

At approximately 7:31 a.m. Friday, just before classes started at Troy High School, a substitute teacher in a second-floor classroom accidentally set off the active shooter alarm. Every classroom is equipped with the ability to set off the alarm through a series of keystrokes, followed by an on-screen pop up notification.

Some students fled the building, others sheltered in place where they were as the alarm went off. Within 81 seconds of the alarm being set off, the Troy Police Department’s School Resource Officer Zach Hook, along with THS Assistant Principal Jeff Schultz, arrived at the classroom and determined it was a false alarm. 

Officer Hook immediately informed the Troy Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, all of which automatically receive active shooter alarms from the Troy City Schools, that it was a false alarm and a further police presence was not necessary.

Within 3 minutes of the alarm going off, all of the staff and students in the building were informed it was a false alarm. As students who had fled the building returned and joined their classmates who had taken shelter, many students were still upset. Those students were allowed to contact their parents and go home for the day as an excused absence. 

At approximately 9 a.m., the same substitute teacher again accidentally set off the alarm. Once again, some students left the building, while others sheltered in place. Once again, it was quickly determined it was a false alarm. At this point, all Troy High School students were sent home for the day. 

Why do we have a duress system?

With the significant rise in school shootings since the 1999 Columbine massacre, we feel it is of paramount importance to have a system in place in all of our buildings to alert students and staff of a potential school shooter. Each classroom is equipped with this system, to provide maximum alert opportunities throughout the building. 

The biggest challenge in coming up with an alert system is making sure it is easy enough for a staff member to activate while under duress, yet difficult enough so that it can’t be easily triggered accidentally. 

What is our active shooter training? 

Our staff members have worked closely with the City of Troy Police Department over the years to prepare for the unlikely possibility of a school shooter. Staff members then share this information with students early in the school year.

The Troy Police Department works with staff members on the “Run, Hide, Fight” method of dealing with potential dangers within the school. 

“The Run, Hide, Fight program that our staff trains teachers in has been developed through years of training and programs that our staff, specifically the SRO’s have attended and developed alongside the schools,” Troy Chief of Police Shawn McKinney said. “We regularly update the programs by studying and attending training by federal, state, and private partners.   We hold practical exercises and table top discussions.  

McKinney emphasized that every potential threat is different, and students and staff will need to quickly assess the situation and choose the option that works best for them.

“Continually assess, and choose the best option. Run away from the threat, but don’t run blindly, you may be running toward it. Consider hiding and/or securing your location. If hiding, consider what could be used as a weapon. Fight if you have the ability, opportunity, or, no matter what your ability, if it’s the only option you have left. Also keep in mind not only your own physical capabilities but also those you are in charge of.”

McKinney said the Run, Hide, Fight method may look chaotic, but is actually the best protocol for students, staff or anyone involved in a potentially dangerous situation. 

“Run, Hide, Fight is designed and practiced to give people a proactive plan when confronted with a threat,” he said. “It is an effective tool for saving as many lives as possible when confronted with an active shooter in any location, school, workplace, or in public. By design, it’s not an orderly evacuation of a location, it's going to look chaotic, but its intent is to save lives.”

He also said it’s important for school staff and parents to reinforce this method with their students. 

“Teachers, staff, and parents need to have a plan,” McKinney said. “Age appropriate training of younger children must include the concept of listening to the adult and understanding the seriousness of the situation. Training need not traumatize or make younger children overly anxious.  Introduce concepts as children gain more independence.”

Finally, McKinney offered this advice for students, staff and family members: “Be aware of your surroundings!  Know where your exits are, occasionally consider what you would do if something happened, it may be at a public event such as a concert, in a store, or at a school function. Report concerning behavior or threats. Know that you can text 911.”

What we are doing now

Again, we would like to apologize that this happened at all, let alone twice. We used Monday’s delay to take a long look at what happened, and what we can do to avoid this happening in the future:

  • Because of what happened, we now have an alternate alert system in place.

  • We had extra Troy Police Department officers in place Monday to give students an added sense of security.

  • We had counselors available to students Monday, and will continue to make them available to students through the rest of the week. 

  • We will re-evaluate our on-boarding training for not only substitute teachers, but all staff members

  • Our training in both how to work the alarm system, as well as what to do when an alarm goes off, will be continuous. This will mean not only increased training for staff members, but for students, as well. 

We will continue to work toward making sure this doesn’t happen again in the future. We would like to thank everyone in the community not only for their tremendous outpouring of support, but for their grace and understanding during a difficult situation.