The 911 calls from the mass shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington State shed more light on the chaos that students, parents, and school staff faced on Oct. 24, when freshman Jaylen Fryberg attacked classmates and then killed himself.
Four of the teen victims died from their injuries. No one knows if more students may have been hurt were it not for first-year teacher Megan Silberberger confronting Jaylen.
In her 911 call, Silberberger said, “I have the shooter. One shooter ... I have him down.... I need help.” She said he was a student but added, "I do not know his name. I tried to stop him before he shot himself.... I don't know how many are down. I tried to stop him."
She’s been hailed as a hero, but in a statement after the shooting, she did not cast herself as such: “I reacted exactly like all my colleagues would in this type of event. I am a schoolteacher, and like all teachers, I am committed to the safety and well-being of my students,” she said, as reported by The Seattle Times.
The teacher indeed acted bravely, but “in these situations, we’re looking for a hero and we have to be cautious,” urges school security expert Kenneth Trump.
It shouldn’t become policy for teachers to be expected to confront shooters, he says, because despite the anecdotes about brave individuals making a difference, there are just as many if not more stories about school staff members getting killed themselves when they move toward a shooter – such as a middle-school teacher in Sparks, Nev., last year.
The 911 tapes also reveal the challenges for families, school officials, and law enforcement when students run out of a school instead of following recommended lockdown procedures, Mr. Trump says.
A crying mother called 911 to report that her daughter had texted her. "My daughter is not following lockdown directions, and she and other kids have run from their classroom," the woman said. "She's away from her classroom right now. What advice can I give her?"
A neighbor called 911 to say a group of students had climbed over her fence and some of them had witnessed the shooting. The operator advised her to have the students stay there until the police could arrive to interview them.
Students will sometimes make individual decisions to flee, Trump says, but generally lockdown is safer because the possible dangers outside the school are unknown. Often school shootings are by individuals acting alone, but that shouldn’t be assumed, he says.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.