Plan “B” Strategies: A Qualitative Inquiry of High Schools’ Contingency Plans for Targeted School Violence
Shearer, Rana Lee
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Targeted school violence (TSV), or armed attacks in schools, represent an essential part of school safety planning similar to fire drills (Lassiter & Perry, 2009), despite the rarity of both. Typically, schools use lockdown or evacuation procedures to respond to a TSV event. However, there are many types of violent events and variables within each situation. Therefore, it is argued that TSV emergency preparedness requires multiple plans (McDaniel & Ellis, 2008), or flexible responses that can accommodate diverse incidents, particularly what occurs during the event; once the perpetrator(s) enter(s) the premises until the arrival of law enforcement (Buerger & Buerger, 2010). Using a case study approach, the current study investigated the prevention efforts, during, alternate strategies, and confidence level of the current TSV plans of high schools in a Canadian prairie province city. Specifically, the research questions sought to examine participants’ preventative and during strategies for armed events, whether there is a plan “B,” and if not, why not. Fifteen (N=15) participants representing police, ambulance, principals, and school board staff participated in individual interviews focusing on their experiences and perceptions of their plans. The findings indicate that both school-based and emergency responder participants preferred flexible over multiple plans, as the latter may confuse key individuals during a TSV attack, and that most participants were sufficiently confident in the flexibility of their school’s planning efforts. The implications of this research included comparing participants with and without intruder experience and how the tangibility of intruder experience may impact planning and confidence. Further findings and suggestions from the participants for improving plans are also discussed.