Former police officer trains teachers to defend classrooms using T-ball bats
DAYTON, Washington — In tragic school shootings, teachers only have seconds to make life or death decisions.
That's why when police are minutes away, an educators instincts might be the only thing keeping classrooms safe.
Now, a former police officer is training teachers how to fight back using a child's toy.
Force Dynamics Founder and Trainer Jon Ladines said a simple T-ball bat can significantly improve a victim's odds of survival in a school shooting.
"We don't have a lot of options," he said. "The police are still 60-seconds away. We have to have a method of stopping the shooter. Period."
Officer Ladines said what happens during the gap time, between a shooter's first shots and police getting there, is vital.
"One of the hardest things for a police officer is to know you have the ability to stop a threat, and not be there," he said.
Until he came along, most schools only had the "Run, Hide, Fight" model against armed intruders.
- Run if you can.
- Hide if you can't.
- Fight if you must.
Ladines said he doesn't think that that method is the best way to save lives.
"Because not everybody can run fast, not everyone can run," he explained. "Not everyone can be the first person out the door."
Ladines advocates staying in the classroom, barricading and defending the doorway.
If the intruder can even get into the darkened classroom, they open themselves to a three-thousand pound strike.
Dayton Schools Superintendent Doug Johnson makes sure every adult in his district gets gap training and a bat.
"Put it somewhere you can get to it if you need to," Johnson said. "It doesn't do you much good to have it locked in some cupboard."
Johnson said the safety of students is their number one priority, but retrofitting 80 year old buildings with panic-buttons and special doorways is just too costly.
He said he likes that gap-training switches the teacher's mindset from victims of prey to protectors.
"They were amazed at how quickly they could swing the bat three times," he demonstrated. "And by how much force they could generate. These only weigh 11 to 12 ounces."
Faculty in nearby College Place used their gap-training just last year when two students showed up at Sager Middle School armed.
Not with guns, but multiple metal and wooden spears.
The two smashed through a glass door into the main office, attacking the principal before two other educators heard the commotion, grabbed their bats, and went toward the danger.
Ladines said the two heroes told him the two assailants stopped assaulting the principal, and tried to get out of the room as fast as they could.
"Because they knew there was an equal or greater threat," the former officer said.
That's why Johnson said he's proud to advertise the Dayton School District's safety plan to whoever is listening.
He compares it to a guard dog sign.
"Whether you have a guard dog or not, people are probably going to pass your house," explained the superintendant, "Because they don't want to mess with the dog."
"This is the world we live in," said Ladines. "Criminals will always look for the weaker-link."
Ladines said when criminals look at schools, they see schools as easy entry, easy mass-casualty, with little to no security.
"We're finding that when the criminals know this stuff, they aren't coming in to challenge it," Ladines said. "They go somewhere else."
Ladines told Action News he has nothing against guns, he even leads tactical firearms training for people who want to arm themselves.
He said gap training is an alternative, because he doesn't want the political debate around when guns are okay to get in the way of keeping kids safe.