Controversy Erupts Over School Proposal to Teach Kids to Fight Back Against Gunmen

A proposal to teach children as young as 10 years old to fight back against a classroom gunman is causing quite a stir in a small town in Massachusetts.

The Georgetown Public Schools in Georgetown, Mass., are considering a proposal to teach kids to fend off a gunman with backpacks or textbooks as part of a proposal to revamp their "Code Blue" safety policy.

Those who support the idea say it may seem extreme, but it could save a child's life.

Georgetown Police Chief James E. Mulligan told the proposed technique was intended to be a "last ditch" thing to be used in cases where a gunman has been able to thwart police and get inside a classroom alone with students.

But others think the last thing you want to teach young kids is how to fight off an intruder with a gun.

"To put that expectation on young, emotional, scared, frightened children is really a slippery slope," says Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services. "It has a high risk and higher probability of escalating a situation than it would to neutralize the situation."

The controversy began when the district's school resource officer, Derek Jones, proposed the training in a memo after hearing it had been used in schools in Florida.

"[He] was starting the conversation with us to say, well, ‘Do we want the kids to sit there and literally have the gunman be able to shoot them one at a time? Or do we want to allow instincts to kick in and basically allow them to protect themselves against the threat?'" Carol Jacobs, the district superintendent, told

"It might include using a book or hiding behind a backpack or something, some kind of shield."

Jacobs said the proposal to teach kids in fifth grade and up how to ward off armed attackers in a worst-case scenario created some concern among administrators.

"We had immediate discomfort with all of this because it’s not the way we’ve thought about it in the past, and also, we worry a little bit more about the liability of all of this," she said.

Jones' memo was intended only for school officials updating the school safety policy in Georgetown, a coastal community north of Boston, but it was leaked to the media before the district's safety committee could even discuss it, leading to concern among parents.

"A lot of kids come from unsafe places at home, and school is their only haven, you know, and for them to come into school and have to think about that stuff I think can be scary," parent Hope Carter told

Barbie Linares, who has three children in the district, including a 10-year-old, said she has confidence in how the school administration deals with proposals.

"If it was going to be implemented, I would hope that it would be implemented in, say, fifth grade and above, or middle school and above," she told "I do think that it would be better off with the older kids."

Trump said it makes more sense to train school staff to deal with a gunman.

"We’re asking them to make some quite serious judgments that even trained adults are challenged to make," he said. "I think that’s an unrealistic and highly risky expectation and burden to put on kids."

Current policy, Mulligan said, is on par with districts across the country, allowing police to enter a school in lockdown and engage an attacker "to minimize the harm to children and staff in the school."

Officials say the Georgetown community is safe. The only recent activity was an unfounded bomb threat six months ago that lead to a school evacuation.

The safety committee plans to discuss the Code Blue proposals on Thursday.

"The intention here is just to make sure that we are always on the cutting edge of what we need to do to keep our kids safe and obviously to learn from lessons of tragedies in other places," Jacobs said.

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