SYRACUSE, New York — It’s training many teachers have never seen, and it’s designed to let staff feel what it might be like to have a school shooter attacking.
These teachers are physically learning to team up and do battle with a shooter, and they are being taught to focus on a shooter's hands.
Teacher’s aid Melissa Demjanenko used tennis balls to train in place of staplers, tape dispensers or chairs she would really use to defend her classroom.
"I think of myself as not a powerful person. ... What can I do to stop something? Now I know I can do something. Now I know everyone in this room can do something," Demjanenko said.
The training considers the idea that when people are in the most stressful situation of their lives, and they think they're just going to react a certain way ... they recognize they won't, Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Czyz said.
People need muscle memory, and to get that, a person needs to have gone through similar stress, he said.
Czyz started the training company Armored One.
He says running to safety is your best bet, then hide if you can’t run.
Along with other current and former law enforcement he teaches teachers lessons that go beyond the classroom and beyond the school lessons we can all use if running or hiding aren’t an option.
“Your game plan of what you will do in case something happens: I hear gunshots behind me in front of me next to me. Which way am I going? What am I doing if I have to fight back.? What am I going to use for weapons? ... Literally in a few seconds.
"Everywhere you go you can have these plans already and it could save your life," Czyz said.
We asked if he does that in every building he goes into.
Police officers regularly train at the gun range; flight attendants on the airplane train for weeks to help people get out alive. This is why some school districts have decided teachers also need to train physically — to protect students.
Before this training, in a mock active shooter drill — teachers reacted painfully slow, taking more than 30 seconds to exit the room.
Czyz was brutally honest.
“If my own kids were in here, I would be disgusted with you. Pretend like your own kids are in here, right?" he said.
Czyz's team demonstrated how to barricade a door and use other things around to block and protect one's self. The taechers then tried again.
There was a huge difference after the training — teachers cleared the room in around 10 seconds.
The sheriff's department says it works hard to make sure the teachers are in their space, so training is done in the school where the teachers actually work. They get first-hand experience in their building.
Planning ahead and practicing is what these teachers say now gives them the confidence to wage war against an attacker if they have no other choice.