Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: A failure of mindset.

“It will never happen to me/us.”

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ― Archilochus

I read and re-read Chapters 2, 3 and 4 of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission official report and my mind keeps coming back to the two quotes I used above.

This is not the smoking gun, it is not the “Aha!” moment in a courtroom drama, it is just simply one of the links in the catastrophic chain of events that lead to the Parkland Shooting. The sad [art is if any of the vicious links had been broken, this massacre may had not happened.

From what I read, if you go with what is on paper, The staff of  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was properly trained on Code Red events and Scot Peterson had more than enough training to face a horde of barbarians. But the actions and what came out in the interviews show the training was probably just a nice paid day of chatting over coffee and donuts.  What the report shows was a staff unevenly prepared and probably whatever training they got was more to check a box saying they did it than actually learning what do tp in a Red Code event.  We go from personnel who knew what and who could call a Red Code to people who did not think it was their job and did not know who could call it and what even meant. It took over three minutes of Cruz shooting for the first Red Code call to go on the air. Mind you, there were personnel who already knew something bad was happening and had radios, but nothing was called for those three minutes.

Some of the people (teachers and security) acted bravely but the lack of a proper plan of action and prior preparation still led to deaths.  For example what is called “Hard Corners”

In regard to school safety and security, a safe zone or hard corner is an area of the classroom that cannot be seen by someone looking through a window(s). It does not mean the area is reinforced with any protective materials or barriers. The fire code does not prohibit or reference safe zones/hard corners. On February 14, two of the 30 classrooms in Building 12 had defined hard corners where teachers had placed tape on the ground to identify the safe areas. There were also multiple classrooms with obstructions in the hard
corners, such as student and teacher desks, bookshelves and audio/video equipment. The two classrooms with identified hard corners were obstructed with unmovable objects that prevented the denoted hard corners from being effective. (Pages 45-46)

In IDPA, I learned the difference between Cover and Concealment: Cover is a barrier that will stop incoming rounds from hitting you. Concealment is a barrier that only blocks vision but rounds can go through.  What is defined as “Hard Corner” according to Florida Schools is at best an area that cannot be seen from the windows in the doors. As you can see by the report, not only these very basic areas were not defined in the majority of classrooms, but the only two that had them defined had them used as dump sites. The only reason the body count was not higher was that Cruz never thought about spraying the drywall walls of every classroom to get the students inside. I am sure that the next shooter will not make that mistake.

Another thing that caught my attention was the personnel not accepting that what they were hearing was shots but defaulted to the less-dangerous concept of firecrackers. This goes to the “It will never happen to me/us/here.” mindset that we have seen in other events. It is the insidious “Bad stuff is what happens to others, not to me and mine.” which leads not only to a terrible preparation mindset but a lack of interest in how to avoid an event and how to respond if it happens. But when the facts came loud in the form of gun shots, it was impossible for some to accept it and they went for a more palatable explanation and less harmful to the mental picture they had formed in their minds all those years.

And now, let me scare you if you have kids anywhere in the Florida Educational System: The mistakes that happened in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been repeated in all schools across the state. Mind you, Broward screw it up atrociously, but that does not mean your school board is absolved from sin. There is not a concise plan across the State of Florida and its schools on how to deal with Code Reds, in fact, there is not even a standardized definition of Code Red and how they apply.

The shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was simply a failure of mindset, or a least a very important link of the chain: Not believing it would ever happen to them led to dismiss proper training and preparation. Once the shooting started, the lack of a plan and training o how to react led to chaos and paralysis of action due to doubts/ignorance on what to do.  And the only person who was supposed to know Deputy Peterson), did not act. I chose not to address him in this post, but I should have added that maybe part of the passive mindset was that they knew there was an armed School Resource Officer present and that would be enough to have a happy ending. “I don’t have to do squat, we have an armed cop in the premises!”  We need to add the possibility this is also part of the problem as we have seen how many people are pissed off at suddenly finding out about No Duty to Protect.

I think I am better off leaving you with the findings of the commission and save me the time to get you even more upset. There is more stuff there than what I just covered.

Findings (pages 50-51):
1. The lack of a called Code Red on February 14, 2018—because there was no policy, little training and no drills—left students and staff vulnerable to being shot, and some were shot because they were not notified to lockdown. This was most evident on the third floor of Building 12.
2. The lack of a formal Code Red or similar active assailant response policy and training in the Broward County Public Schools led to school personnel not knowing or clearly understanding the criteria for calling a Code Red, who could
call it or when it could be called.
3. The District did not have and still does not have a formal, written and
disseminated Code Red policy.
4. Even after the hour-long emergency code training with Al Butler in January 2018, teachers and MSDHS staff were still unsure as to the correct procedure required to call a Code Red and who could call a Code Red. As recently as late fall of 2018 during interviews of current MSDHS teachers and other staff, they indicated they are still unclear as to who can call a Code Red and under what circumstances.
5. There were no Code Red drills at MSDHS in the year preceding the shooting.
6. Multiple teachers stated that Butler’s training in January 2018 was useful because they did not have any prior Code Red training. After the training, administrators and campus monitors found most of the teachers locked their classroom doors. However, administrators and campus monitors did continue to find some doors around the campus unlocked and even propped open. These teachers were reminded to keep the doors shut and locked.
7. All teachers in Building 12 who sheltered in place did so because the first thing they heard was gunfire, not because they were notified of an active shooter on campus. This was especially true on the second floor.
8. All teachers in Building 12 who evacuated their classrooms did so because the first thing they heard was the fire alarm and had not been notified of a Code Red.
9. Not one teacher in Building 12 stated that they heard the Code Red being called over the PA. The teachers reacted to the sound of gunfire or the fire alarm. (The Code Red announcement over the PA was not made until Cruz had finished shooting all his victims and was entering the third-floor teacher’s lounge, which was too late to meaningfully notify anyone.)



6 Replies to “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: A failure of mindset.”

  1. The root cause of failure analyst in me looks at item #4 in the findings list and wonders what kind of training leaves the trainees unsure of their duties in an emergency. “Code Red” for a suspected or actual active shooter should be like a fire alarm. Anyone who sees fire or smells smoke should be able to sound the alarm. Certainly, in this situation, anyone with a radio should have been empowered to initiate a “Code Red,” and should have known they were empowered to do so.

    A more worrisome issue, is what will be done to apply the lessons learned to all schools, not just in Florida but across the country? I suspect that for political and economic reasons, lip service will be paid but no real changes will be made.

  2. There is a huge difference between freezing up the first time you actually encounter an emergency, and the widespread lackadaisical attitude that happened during the Parkland shooting.

    Until someone actually finds themselves in a shooting incident, a building fire, a car wreck, an avalanche, etc.. all the drills in the world will not make a difference. That is GO! time, and some folks will freeze, panic, and totally forget the training.

    But, enough people will not, and they will motivate the frozen ones to get moving. None of which happened at Parkland. Everyone froze, or they deliberately decided to ignore their training, or, most likely, the training was never emphasized. It was, as you note, a “It will never happen here…” situation.

    1. Miguel gets it.

      This is the reason you drill and practice!

      You desensitize people to worrying about what is happening and get them to respond automatically when they know what to do and what happens when they do it. Practice, practice, practice!

      Good training is not just talking about what to do, but actually doing it.

      You see a suspicious person. Quick what do you do!
      Uhhh, I don’t know?
      You slap the idiot upside the head and A) then tell them what to do; B) show them what to do; and C) make them demonstrate what to do, and repeat it several times.
      Then you add complications and variations like your radio doesn’t work? What do you do? It’s a knife, not a gun, what do you do? (The same damned thing, call a Code Red!)
      What do you do next? And step them through it.

      Every teacher,
      You hear firecrackers or booms or shots, WHAT DO YOU DO???
      Show me! Report Code Red to the office! Lock the doors. Block the doors. Turn out the lights. Quiet the students. Herd the students into shelter. You don’t know where the sheltered corner is? Smack! Find it! Its blocked or cluttered? Smack! You have until end of the day tomorrow to fix it! (And then actually show up and verify it.)

      And then repeat the same damned training until they get it, and automatically get it right! And then follow up regularly with training, including lecture, review of procedures, and actual hands on practice. Soon it is just habit. Habits that save lives.

      It isn’t hard. It doesn’t take super intelligent brains. It takes a plan. It takes common sense, commitment, time, and persistent practice. A lot of it needs to be one-on-one, which can be time consuming for the trainers. All of which are alien to the average time wasting, blame shifting, unmotivated bureaucrat.

      (Insert the usual bromides about practice and real world performance.)

  3. There’s a strange superstition some people have that if you discuss, think about, or plan for a problem, then it will happen. If you ignore it, then it won’t happen.

    It’s a belief that more than a few antis have, that learning self defense and owning a gun will magically draw trouble to you.

    I believe we’re seeing it here.

  4. You’re correct Joe.
    This mental fault is seen in more than one subject.
    People won’t write wills, or “pre-plan” funeral arrangements.

    There is also the medieval superstition in the “Deodand”, that a thing, an inanimate object, can somehow influence human action.
    Gun Grabber Tyrants use this to sway the ignorant.

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