Cal Poly currently requires three trainings for all faculty and staff. Active shooter response training is not one of them.
In 2019 alone, there have been 29 school gun violence incidents in the United States, with a total of 31 injuries and deaths. This number continues to rise.
According to data from the U.S. Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there were 97 school gun violence incidents in 2018 — a record high dating back to 1970.
To put this in perspective, most schools are in session 180 days a year, which means there was an incident involving gun violence approximately every two days. The number of injuries and deaths were also at a record high of 165 people in 2018.
Many students at Cal Poly, like construction management freshman Sophie Stewart, are unaware of the available resources and campus rules about active shooting preparation.
“I don’t even think they’ve ever mentioned anything about a school shooting and what to do if it were to happen,” Stewart said.
This begs the question: How does Cal Poly prepare its students, faculty and staff for this situation?
Is Cal Poly Prepared?
Faculty and staff are only required to complete the Injury and Illness Prevention Program, Sexual Misconduct Prevention Program and Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Program.
“If you start mandating too many trainings, it can cause some problems,” Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police George Hughes said. “It’s very time consuming, so we would have to discuss that with the labor unions if we were going to do any more mandated training,”
However, the University Police Department (UPD) trains five to six times a year for this situation and at least once a year with the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
UPD’s training includes going to the firing range or training in a building, practicing movements and techniques.
“It’s very unlikely that you would find yourself in the middle of an active shooter situation, but we still need to train and be prepared for it just like we would a fire alarm,” Hughes said.
UPD offers an hour-and-a-half-long presentation once every quarter on surviving an active shooter situation.
“Sometimes they’re heavily attended,” Hughes said. “Sometimes there’s only a few people that show up.”
These active shooter sessions are hosted and marketed by Associate Students Inc. (ASI) in partnership with UPD. The presentations are optional and open to everyone.
Why active shooter training isn’t mandatory
According to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier, the campus cannot mandate trainings unilaterally. All trainings required for members of a labor unit must go through a meet-and-confer process with the California State University (CSU) system and affected unions.
Cal Poly’s three required training programs have all gone through the process.
“Cal Poly has so many trainings on other areas like alcohol, drugs [and] sexual abuse, and I think if they just implemented the same practices from that to educating students on school shootings it would be beneficial,” Stewart said.
Even though Cal Poly has not begun required trainings, other areas on the Central Coast are starting to take action to increase awareness of active shooter preparation. Atascadero State Hospital held an active shooter drill May 6 with the Atascadero Police Department.
Data from the U.S. Center for Homeland Defense and FEMA also shows California with the highest number of school gun violence incidents out of all the states in the U.S. with 158 incidents since 1970 followed by Texas at 133 incidents and Florida with 90 incidents.
Recent events — such as the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting that left two dead and four injured on April 30 and the shooting at South Ridgeline Boulevard and Plaza Drive (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, CO that resulted in one dead and eight injured on May 7 — were less than two weeks apart.
“I think it would be beneficial to start doing trainings on school shootings, at least for the staff and faculty that are required along with the sexual health clinic,” Hughes said. “For now, we need to make sure we are continuing to offer it.”
The next Surviving an Active Shooter presentation is on Wednesday, May 15 at 10 a.m. in room 220 in the University Union (UU).
For more information about active shooter trainings visit the Cal Poly Department of Emergency Management website.