Burlington implements new active shooter protocol


Airman 1st Class Zoe M. Wockenfu

Photo: Courtesy Dover Air Force Base // A Dover Air Force squadron practices an active shooter drill in an elementary school in Dover, Delaware.

Julia Shannon-Grillo

On Feb. 22, 2018, Governor Phil Scott signed a memorandum that sought to expand school safety state-wide. This note came just one week after then 18 year old Jack Sawyer was arraigned for an alleged plot to carry out a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, in Fair Haven, VT. 

The memorandum recommends safety upgrades, including modern safety training. 

The Burlington School District (BSD) was already ahead of the curve. BSD began considering possible active shooter trainings in the 2015-16 school year. In 2018, the BSD District Safety looked at options-based responses, as opposed to the traditional lockdown protocol of a classroom sit-in. The Vermont Agency of Education endorses multiple options-based response trainings. The group chose to recommend Run, Hide, Fight to the Burlington School Board in April, 2019.

Run, Hide, Fight is fairly self explanatory. It encourages students to run if they are able to escape, hide if they are not able to escape, and fight the attacker as a last resort. District leaders presented Run, Hide, Fight to the community at a public forum at the Integrated Arts Academy last Wednesday evening, Dec. 11. 

“None of these methodologies are perfect,” Russ Elek, the district’s Communications Specialist, told the crowd.  He said Run, Hide, Fight was chosen for its intuitive language, familiarity to law enforcement, and common use. 

Burlington is working with Margolis Healy and Associates, a professional services firm that markets itself as specializing in “safety, security, emergency preparedness, and regulatory compliance,” to roll out the trainings for teachers in three phases.

Margolis Healy signed on in April, 2019, and the Burlington School District began training Burlington teachers on their first day of work in August. During Wednesday’s community forum, it was unclear if students will be trained as well, a concern for many of the parents in attendance. 

“This is about the ills of the world,” one parent of a first grader said. “Am I going to be told the day this is going to happen, so I can have my kid not come to school?”

According to Margolis Healy representative Thomas Nelson, the decision on student training is further down the line. 

“Right now we are not training the kids. We expect that that will become a part, because that is the trend across the country,” Nelson said during Wednesday’s forum.