It's a refreshingly bold attempt to disrupt the recent pattern of school shootings. Kids in a Texas suburban school district are being taught to fight back if a gunman storms their classroom:
BURLESON, Texas (AP) -- Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they got - books, pencils, legs and arms.
"Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
That kind of fight-back advice is all but unheard of among schools, and some fear it will get children killed.
But school officials in Burleson said they are drawing on the lessons learned from a string of disasters such as Columbine in 1999 and the Amish schoolhouse attack in Pennsylvania last week.
The school system in this working-class suburb of about 26,000 is believed to be the first in the nation to train all its teachers and students to fight back, Browne said.
At Burleson - which has 10 schools and about 8,500 students - the training covers various emergencies, such as tornadoes, fires and situations where first aid is required. Among the lessons: Use a belt as a sling for broken bones, and shoelaces make good tourniquets.
Students are also instructed not to comply with a gunman's orders, and to take him down.
Browne recommends students and teachers "react immediately to the sight of a gun by picking up anything and everything and throwing it at the head and body of the attacker and making as much noise as possible. Go toward him as fast as we can and bring them down."
Response Options trains students and teachers to "lock onto the attacker's limbs and use their body weight," Browne said. Everyday classroom objects, such as paperbacks and pencils, can become weapons.
"We show them they can win," he said. "The fact that someone walks into a classroom with a gun does not make them a god. Five or six seventh-grade kids and a 95-pound art teacher can basically challenge, bring down and immobilize a 200-pound man with a gun."
The fight-back training parallels the change in thinking that has occurred since Sept. 11, when United Flight 93 made it clear that the usual advice during a hijacking - Don't try to be a hero, and no one will get hurt - no longer holds. Flight attendants and passengers are now encouraged to rush the cockpit.
Similarly, women and youngsters are often told by safety experts to kick, scream and claw they way out during a rape attempt or a child-snatching.
Kids are so rigorously taught to obey adults in our society and in the school system specifically -- and commendably so -- that many of them now need to be taught the opposite. They need to be given permission to disobey strangers and gunmen in life-threatening situations. They need to be told when it is O.K. to actively struggle, resist, and fight back.
My daughter is in an elementary-school level self-defense class in which the kids were recently taught what to do if they are approached by a stranger or if they are being abducted. The kids had to be drilled repeatedly on the skill of shouting loudly enough for help. Their instinct is to keep their voices down to a reasonable level, not to raise a commotion.
Being loud and and resisting adults have been trained out of many if not most of our kids; now we need to put some resistance back into them for those isolated circumstances in which their lives may depend on resisting.
It's not just crazed individual gunmen we need to worry about. We've seen what happened in Beslan, Russia, where an entire school full of adults and children was taken hostage by terrorists. In hindsight, those kids might have been better off running en masse for every exit the moment the terrorists announced their presence, before the terrorists had time to rig additional explosives. Instead they obeyed and suffered in terror for days, after which many of them were killed. This is not to fault any of the victims of the Beslan tragedy. The only ones responsible for the deaths are the terrorist animals who took over the school, and anyone who backed them.
Of course, teaching kids to resist is only part of the equation. As I've suggested before, we also need to have at least two trained adults with firearms on every campus in America, be they security guards, principals, or selected teachers.
Teaching kids to throw books at gunmen isn't a perfect solution. But it's better than any other solution we've got so far. In this dangerous age, the instructors providing this training to kids in one Texas school district should be commended for going the extra mile to find a way to make kids safer.