The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
Julie Gauthier considers herself a proactive person. However, when the ear-splitting sound of gunfire rent the air, her reaction was very different from the one she had anticipated.
“I was so startled that I couldn’t even react,” said Gauthier, the principal of Ridgewood Elementary in Port Neches. “I think of myself as someone who will take charge, but I could do nothing but hide.”
Fortunately, the bullets weren’t real this time — just blanks fired by Sandy Wall, of SafariLand Training Group, as part of an active shooter training session held by the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District on Friday. But the value of the practical experience the district’s teachers and staff gained cannot be quantified.
“It's sad that, in the greatest country in the world, we would even have to discuss someone coming into school and harming our kids,” said PN-GISD Superintendent Rodney Cavness. “But there are sick people out there, and we have to do everything we can to keep them safe.”
Wall spent Thursday training PN-GISD administration and principals campuswide. On Friday, the principals relayed that training to their teachers and staff. Then, the teachers were subject to three different scenarios in which a shooter was active on campus. They were taught different techniques, and all experienced the body’s different reactions to the sound of gunfire.
“It’s not going to happen when you’ve got the right clothes and the right shoes on,” Gauthier told teachers during a briefing following the simulation. “You have to be able to revert to your training.”
That training is especially imperative for the elementary school teachers, whose students are not as capable of defending themselves as those in junior high and high school.
“During training, we’re all adults in there, so we can help each other,” said Mary Murdock, who teaches kindergarten at Ridgewood. “In the classroom, we would be in charge of every single thing. It was very eye-opening.”
And it wasn’t a one-time event. Cavness said the district plans to continue running drills throughout the school year to familiarize students with the situation.
“We have a plan in place,” Cavness said. “We’ll continue to practice it, look at doing training with the kids when they get back, and keep getting better and better at it.”