Port Huron school district trained 800 employees with active shooter survival tactics

Days of locking doors and hiding in corners are over

The staff and students learned life saving tactics while being involved in a school shoot scenario.

PORT HURON, Mich – Port Huron Area School District trained every staffer it could on Active Assailant Response Training.

Read: What to know about school safety protocols, active shooter training

There are scenarios no one wants to think about, but almost everyone in our region is; what happens if someone gets into a school and deliberately tries to harm anyone they can?

“I think Oxford brought it to the forefront,” Officer Dennis Huisman said. “It really hit home as Oxford is 45 minutes away.”

The Port Huron School District often does refreshers. But, this half-day session was the deep dive as the fourth largest employer of St. Clair County, 800 employees rotated from space to space, and some dialed in virtually. But the goal was to get every staffer up to speed and prepared with tools and options.

“Not just our teachers, but today you’re gonna have absolutely everyone, every secretary, custodian, lunch supervisor, teacher, and administrator will receive this safety training,” said Asst. Superintendent of Instruction, Catherine Woolman.

There are many different kinds of active assailant training. But, this particular training, Active Assailant Response Training or AART, was designed by the Port Huron Police Department, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, and the school district.

The message is essentially the same, but some different tactics and tools are changeable and adjustable for the region or specific facilities. It includes a focus on first aid and even hand-to-hand combat options.

“Sometimes you will have to fight back, which is scary to talk to a student about because they don’t feel like they can fight back,” another officer said.

“I felt like it just gave you the mindset to think about what you could be in and how you would be best prepared to keep everyone as safe as possible,” said Teacher Anthony Marchione.

The Port Huron Police Department liaison taught several sessions today, including one to students this morning because a teacher wanted her students to have the tools.

“And the kids actually started looking around for things that they would put in front of the door,” Huisman said. “They saw some filing cabinets that were really heavy and started saying, ‘hey you guys are going to push those in front of the door, and these people over here are going to work on getting the window open in case we have to escape.’ Other kids started grabbing things around the room, saying they would use those things to protect themselves and others.”

The only option taken off the table is to do nothing. That’s not an option as these staffers are taught to do something.

About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.