School may be out for the summer, but Hamilton students are still learning important lessons. Ones that could be the difference between life and death.
The Hamilton Police Department conducted an active shooter and SWAT training at Hamilton High School on Wednesday, involving students, school staff and administrators in a mock emergency.
Hamilton City Schools joins many school districts across Butler County that are re-evaluating and upgrading their emergency response procedures and building security this summer.
“The reality of the situation in any school district … is that you are just one student, or one person, or one gun away from a possible situation,” Hamilton Superintendent Larry Knapp said. “It is incumbent upon us to make schools as safe as we possible can.
The training drill included law enforcement as well as fire and EMS units in order to hone first-responder skills and test the response of the SWAT team.
“We have to be ready and prepared and coordinated with our local emergency responders to do the best job we can in keeping students and staff safe,” Knapp said.
SWAT official Brian Gleason said the training was important for school resource officers, those who would be the first on scene in case of an active shooter.
“So many things have happened now and shown that patrols and the first responders are going to be the ones dealing with it and not us,” Gleason said.
On Wednesday, the first practiced scenario included one active shooter in a wing of Hamilton High School, as well as two “dead,” school volunteers who suffered fake gunshot wounds
Officers and SWAT officials rushed through hallways with a primary purpose: secure the suspect. Once the “shooter,” Hamilton Police Officer Montez Lee, was placed in custody, responders could attend to injured participants, some covered with fake blood and some with gunshot wounds made of wax and makeup.
Meghan Garry, a junior at Hamilton High School, said she was afraid when the shooter scenario first began, but watching her classmates made her realize what a benefit the training was.
“Watching other people do it correctly with their hands up running out and listening to orders … being very mature about it … I hope that does transfer over to a real situation,” she said.
“Killed” in the action was Kaitlyn Burke, a Hamilton math teacher. Though she had high spirits throughout the training and didn’t mind dying for the sake of the training, she said it was difficult for her to know that her role involved not being able to protect her students.
“I think just knowing that your decisions affect all your students in that situation, you want to make sure you’re as trained as possible,” Burke said. “I love all the kids at Hamilton and I think we had a really good school community, so I’d like … to be prepared.”