DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
SMITHWICK — A local shooting range is offering a training program for school officials and educators concerned about campus safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last year.
PHOTO: Teacher Teri Sellers practices at the Copperhead Creek Shooting Club in Smithwick. After the deadly shooting in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Sellers told her husband, Jeff Sellers, a shooting club instructor and general manager, he should develop a program to train school staff on protecting their campus and children. Jeff Sellers, drawing on his background in emergency response and incident management, created the ‘Schools on Target’ program. Several people in law enforcement have reviewed the concept. The club is offering the training to public and private schools. Courtesy photo
“Our goal is not to train people to take the place of the police,” said Copperhead Creek Shooting Club general manager and instructor Jeff Sellers. “What we’re talking about is training people in schools that are allowed to carry or considering allowing their staff to carry, to train them for what we call the critical period.”
This, Sellers said, is the time between when the incident starts and the police arrive.
The program, called Schools on Target, provides a series of instructions from basic school safety and situational awareness through advanced handgun training. The goal is to give school officials or educators a chance to protect their campus and students in the extreme situation a person attacks the facility and the people there, no matter what type of weapon is used, Sellers said.
Already, the club has been getting positive feedback about the program, though no district or school has signed up yet.
“People that I’ve talked to with school children support (the training),” Sellers said.
If a district or school decides to proceed with the program, Sellers said officials could select among a variety of levels based on their needs and goals. It could be something as simple as basic campus awareness so teachers and administrators know what to look for if something is out of place and potentially a problem.
“The awareness training is just about teaching you what to pay attention to around your school,” he said.
From there, the training could advance to basic handgun instruction for somebody who has never handled a weapon. Sellers said one of the strong points of the program is it allows attendees to try out several sizes of handguns to determine which best fits him or her.
Eventually, attendees could obtain a Concealed Handgun License that would open up further training such as advanced shooting skills, Sellers said.
The training, however, is not to put teachers and administrators in a position in which they go out and look for a shooter or attacker. Instead, it’s about escaping, hiding and defense.
“This isn’t about going out and hunting somebody down. That’s best left for the police,” Sellers said. “What we are teaching is for the teacher to first look around and try to determine if there’s a safe way for him or her to get the kids out of the building and away from danger. If that’s not possible, then we’d want them to try to hide and stay safe.”
The last resort, Sellers said, is for the educator to use deadly force when confronted by an attacker.
“But, if you’re in your room with your kids and that person breaks in there ready to do harm, we want you to be able to protect your kids and yourself,” he said. “That’s not for all teachers.”
Sellers, who is National Incident Management System certified and has helped schools develop emergency response plans, didn’t come up with the training idea. It was his wife, Teri, a teacher herself, who prompted him to consider creating the school program.
Since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., when a man stormed the school armed with a semi-automatic rifle and killed 26 people — including 20 students — there has been an interest in allowing school staff to carry concealed weapons.
At least one Texas school district, Harrold Independent School District west of Wichita Falls, allows employees to carry concealed weapons under certain requirements. Other districts haven’t been quick to adopt the practice.
Still, Sellers said there has been interest in the program.
“It’s not for everybody,” he said. “But for those districts or schools who are considering it or just thinking about it, we’ll be glad to sit down with them and discuss the program.”
Copperhead Creek Shooting Club is located on Hidden Falls Adventure Park, 7030 RR 1431 in Smithwick. For more information, go to www.copperheadcreek.com or call (830) 265-4950.