Northside Independent School District plans to roll out a new video next school year designed to instruct students how to respond in an active shooter situation, urging them to run, hide, and fight.

In the dramatized video, a hooded figure plays the role of a gunman and other actors play out scenarios in which a shooter enters a school. The school district plans to show the video to all Northside middle and high school students next year.

“While it is the job of the Northside Police Department to keep our campuses safe, there is one situation where every student, teacher administrator and staff member will have to take action,” Northside Police Department Lieutenant Kelley Fryar said at the start of the video. “… Your best three options are run, hide, or fight.”

Reacting to recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, over the last year-and-a-half, local school districts have implemented new safety protocols. State legislators have embarked on a statewide school safety conversation, passing several related bills in the last session. North East ISD implemented policies requiring clear backpacks and random searches. Northside ISD is extending their own training protocol to include the new “Run, Hide, Fight” video.

In a letter to Northside families sent last Friday, Superintendent Brian Woods explains the district’s new training strategy, which he said is recommended by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

The video can be viewed below.  

YouTube video

First, the video recommends running from a hazard if there is a clear exit path. Then, the video shows how to barricade a door, keep it from opening, and hide. As a last resort, the video recommends students fight the shooter.

The final scene shows students picking up a textbook and laptop to fight a shooter who enters a classroom.

“There’s strength in numbers, enlist as much help as possible, and attack together,” Fryar said in the video. “Use whatever you can as a weapon – a laptop, fire extinguisher, water bottles, a book, anything. Distraction is good. Throw things, yell, scream, fight. Try to get the weapon from the shooter as fast as possible and use your body weight to bring them down. Immobilize the shooter until help arrives.”

District spokesman Barry Perez told the Rivard Report that the district has been working on producing the video throughout the past year. It was created with feedback from parents, staff, and students and sent to individual campuses within the last month, he said.

The district looped in school counselors to provide support to students and staff, because “while nothing in the video is graphic, the concept of an active shooter can be troubling,” Perez said.

University of Texas at San Antonio educational psychology professor Sharon Nichols noted that districts must be aware and sensitive to existing anxiety in students when approaching the serious topic of school shootings.

A balanced approach is essential, she said, adding that districts also must provide support for mental health services.

“[Students] already have high rates of anxiety and stress in school and now you are introducing, with vivid imagery, this probability of this kind of event that is all too real to these students, when the reality is it is so unlikely to happen,” Nichols said. “The chance of it happening is so low.”

Nichols recently sat in on a Congressional hearing with Lauren Hogg, a survivor of the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hogg stressed that there is no guarantee that students or teachers will remember their training when a shooter actually comes on campus and that much of the safety procedures put in place after the shooting, including clear backpacks and metal detectors, have made students feel more anxious and less safe.

“We all have ideas as to what we think we should do, but none of them map onto what the kids think and how they should experience it,” Nichols said, advocating that school board members talk to individuals who have been involved in a school shooting event to learn how is actually best to address the risk.

Brennan High School graduate Hector Mendez, now a student at the University of Texas, agreed that the concept of a school shooting can be troubling and said some students viewing the video may be unsettled by previous experiences with gun violence.

“When I watched it, I felt chills through my spine, and I’m a college student,” Mendez said. “I believe that when they put out videos like this … [and] to have it dramatized like this, they make it appear as if it is a real threat. … Sometimes it feels like it gets overpushed.”

Mendez said he wouldn’t feel confident fighting off a shooter and wondered if any other students or teachers would be well-equipped to do so with just a textbook or laptop, as the video suggests.

Perez stressed that the district is not advising students to immediately fight a shooter. “That is something that we are stressing: fight is the last measure, that’s the last option,” he said.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.