Superintendent stocks classrooms with mini-baseball bats to fight off school shooters as ‘last resort’
iStock/Thinkstock(ERIE, Pa.) — President Donald Trump has suggested arming teachers with guns to protect schools in the wake of a spate of deadly shootings.
Others have suggested hardening campuses with bulletproof glass, metal detectors and extra security.
But one Pennsylvania superintendent is taking a slightly different tack — putting a mini-baseball bat in each classroom to give students and teachers a “last resort” way to fight in the event that they were confronted with danger.
Superintendent William Hall, of the Millcreek School District, in Erie, admits some parents have had negative reactions to the idea — it struck at least one as a “joke” — but to him, “it’s more about the educational piece and that awareness — teaching our kids to be better prepared for these situations.”
The district recently revised its policies for what to do during a “hard lockdown,” Hall told ABC News today, surveyed the community about suggestions to make schools safer.
One survey response mentioned bats in case teachers or students need to fight back, Hall said.
The 18-inch wooden bats — a tool to be used as a “last resort” — were distributed on April 2 to classrooms and school offices where they are expected to be locked up during the day, Hall said.
Students armed with stones in ‘last-ditch’ plan to ward off school shooters, superintendent says
“Our previous lockdown procedure was that we would lock doors, turn the lights out and hide,” Hall said. “We didn’t talk about the other options of running or barricading… and how do you defend yourself.”
“We wanted to incorporate updated best practices, and the best practices today say you need to provide everybody with options, not just hiding,” Hall said. “Certainly hiding is the first option, running is an option and having to fight may be an option, as well.”
Hall said his goal is to “provide awareness to everybody that you may be in a situation where you have to fight. And part of that fight response is to assess your immediate environment,” whether that is a classroom or a hallway or the gym.
“This could be for anybody in the community,” Hall added. “If you’re in a mall or anywhere, that is an option — that you assess your immediate environment, you look to find some type of weapon you can use to defend yourself, or obviously, in our case, our students.”
He stressed that introducing bats to classrooms should not be misconstrued as arming teachers, but is instead about “providing our rooms with one consistent tool to be utilized in an emergency.”
“It’s not about the teachers — it’s about the room. Anybody can use this bat in the event of a hard lockdown if they had to defend themselves,” Hall added. “We don’t expect teachers to be chasing down a gunman with a bat. But we do expect them to protect themselves and our kids.”
Hall added that he’s not concerned that students may use the bats to harm each other, saying besides the fact that they are locked up, there are other objects in the classroom that could be “used in an aggressive manor.”
But one mother doesn’t see the point to introducing the bats.
“I thought they were joking when they said they gave out bats,” Jo Ellen Barish, who has a son in seventh grade in the district, told ABC News today. “When I saw them I laughed.”
Barish described the bats as the size of a souvenir.
“I think they really set themselves up to be the butt of a joke with them,” Barish said.
“I don’t see [the bats] doing much damage,” she said. “I don’t think you could even break a window with this bat if you needed to.”
“By no means do I think the district meant them as … a big solution. I think it was a symbolic thing,” Barish said.
Karen Munson, who has a son in eighth grade in the district, told ABC News she is completely in favor of having these bats in the classrooms.
“Whatever the teachers need to do to protect themselves and the students in the classroom, I’m behind it 100 percent,” Munson said.
Her son seems “indifferent” to the bats, she said, Though he really doesn’t understand how a mini-bat is going to protect him, his teacher, his peers in a classroom if someone is actively shooting at him.”
“I could understand his point,” Munson said. She said she told him maybe the bat wouldn’t be just used to try to fight back against a shooter — it could also jam a door to prevent someone from entering the classroom.
Munson said just the fact that it’s now public knowledge there are bats in these classrooms may also deter someone from coming to school with a gun.
Munson said is concerned that children or teachers could use the bats inappropriately, but she added, “I think that we as a society need to do more to address the true issue here — why people feel they can go into a school and harm others the way they do.”
On that point, Barish agreed. She said she would prefer to see solutions that prevent a school shooting, instead of situations to stop an active shooter.
Hall said other measures as a part of the district’s revised security plan include: visits from local and state police; buying “Stop the Bleed” kits for all classrooms; and building secured entrances at some of the schools this summer.
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