It started with gunfire and children screaming.
First, there was the rapid pop of automatic gunfire, then shotgun blasts and the occasional explosion. But the sounds of chaos coming through the loudspeaker at Selma Herndon Elementary School were not genuine. They were part of training to deal with an active shooter.
The training is part of a new effort this year by the Livingston Union School District, which has implemented new safety measures, according to Superintendent Andres Zamora.
“All year, we’ve done training at the site level with the site teams,” Zamora said. “This was just a good opportunity to kind of test our training on the site level.”
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The district is made up of three elementary schools, a middle school and a couple of preschools. About 25 teachers and staff took part in Saturday’s training, Zamora said.
All year we’ve done training at the site level with the site teams. This was just a good opportunity to kind of test our training on the site level.
Andres Zamora, superintendent of Livingston Union School District
During the drill, the loudspeaker mimicked the chaotic sounds from a school shooting and volunteers ran from the campus like fleeing staffers as police arrived. Wearing helmets and carrying shields, the officers formed up before systematically searching the campus for actors playing active shooters.
Mass shootings have become frequent enough nationally that active shooters are something school officials have to consider, Zamora said. “Unfortunately, yes, it’s better to be proactive,” he said.
In 2012, six educators and 20 children were killed by a 20-year-old gunman who shot his way into a Connecticut schoolhouse. A 15-year-old Washington state high school student used a gun to kill four students before killing himself in 2014.
And, of course, shooters have attacked other gathering places in the past year, including a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and a holiday luncheon in San Bernardino.
This is where we’re most vulnerable. We need to do everything we can to protect our kids.
Councilman Gurpal Samra
“Thankfully, it really hasn’t happened locally,” Livingston police Chief Ruben Chavez said. “Across the United States and the world ... you have seen people (who want) to create havoc at a school, and that’s what we’re trying to prepare for.”
Fourteen officers took part in the drill at the campus. With a swearing-in planned for three new officers on Tuesday, Chavez said, the department will soon be staffed with 20 officers.
In recent days, Chavez said, officers have brushed up on their training related to active shooters. He said the sort of training carried out Saturday is important to mimic the chaos that comes with a real scenario and the adrenaline the officers might feel.
The training was filmed by a crew as well as a camera on a drone.
Watching from the sidelines Saturday was Councilman Gurpal Samra. He stood outside the campus, motioning to the classrooms.
“This is where we’re most vulnerable,” Samra said. “We need to do everything we can to protect our kids.”