Active shooter drills more crucial than ever, Iberville Parish Sheriff says

Staff Report

Law enforcement officials were equipped with firearms as they canvassed the halls of Plaquemine High School in search of an active shooter – and it was all part of a demonstration.

The Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office worked with the Iberville Parish School District to coordinate the drills last week, which included instruction on protocol in the event of an active shooter on campus.

Sheriff Brett Stassi speaks to Plaquemine High School faculty during the active shooter drills last week.

The drills have become common at schools across the nation after 14 shootings that have left more than 150 children and adults dead since 1990. Most recently, 21 people died in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a city of 15,000 in a largely rural area.

It brought yet another reminder that no city large or small is immune from those incidents, which makes the drills more important than ever, Sheriff Brett Stassi said

“We always prepare for the worst and pray for the best,” he said. “But you can’t keep your heads in the sand … people in Uvalde never thought that could happen in their town.”

Deputies from the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office line the hallways during the active shooter drills last week.

It's not only a procedure for law enforcement. The drills also provided instruction for teachers on how to distract a perpetrator.

Items ranging from water bottles to packed bookbags play a role in the process

They’re instructed to throw anything that can take a shooter off track in a situation when every second counts.

Metal detectors have become commonplace at schools.

Deputies rush into a classroom as part of the active shooter drills last week.

Iberville has an advantage over many school systems in Louisiana because of its agreement with the School Board to put student resource officers on campuses throughout the parish, Stassi said.

“It just takes one incident, and anyone who thinks their parish or county is immune to an incent like we saw in Uvalde needs to know better,” he said. “Sadly, it can happen anywhere.”

The use of other small municipalities in the drills adds another element, the sheriff said.

“A lot of these little municipalities may not have the money or whatever to send their officers to the training to learn the most up-to-date techniques,” he said. “The opportunity to have my people train with those smaller municipalities is something we can lean on in the future.”

It also creates a uniform protocol, something that was not in place during the Uvalde massacre.

“When I saw the video of 350 law enforcement officers running backwards down the hall in Uvalde, it made me sick,” he said. “Working with the small municipalities means that they know how we do the procedures, so if we have some fallen officers, they can get in the stack and proceed based on how we train them.

“Nobody wants to be a hero,” Stassi said. “But everyone who works for me they’re going to be heading in – not headed out. We’re going to do everything we can do for the safety of our children.”

The number of active shooters has put schools everywhere on higher alert. They have made SROs a necessity, Stassi said.

The SROs are not just about protection from active shooters, however.

“A man came up to my office to thank me for the SRO we had at Plaquemine High,” he said. “He told me without the SRO, his son may have not even graduated.”