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Marshall Elementary Lockdown

In this 2015 file photo, officers from the Flagstaff Police Department stand outside Marshall Elementary School after the school was put on lockdown due to a threatening phone call. 

Students in the Flagstaff Unified School District go through randomly timed drills multiple times a year to practice for school shootings like the one that took place in a South Florida high school on Wednesday.

Students, teachers and all other staff are taught to “shelter in place,” or stay where they are, lock the door and cover any windows during an active shooter situation, district spokeswoman Karin Eberhard said.

“We're unfortunately very well-practiced,” Eberhard said.

The schools also have an established system to notify employees of a shelter-in-place situation, Eberhard said. Special words are used and the alert “may or may not” be communicated on the school’s loudspeaker system, she said.

Eberhard said she didn’t want to share too many details about school practices because of the concern that it would help someone get around those security and alert systems. She noted that Nikolas Cruz, the Florida shooter, pulled the school’s fire alarm knowing that would get students to come out of classrooms.

Over the past four years, district schools also have been retrofitted so that visitors have to walk through the front office to get into the school -- all other doors are kept locked. There is a sign-in process and visitors must get a pass that they return when they leave, Eberhard said.

There are also possibilities to upgrade the current safety system in the schools when and if the district ever gets the funding to do so, she said. There are new alarm systems on the market that can be programmed to alert students and staff to all kinds of emergencies.

School resource officers, who are current or former police officers, are stationed at secondary schools either full-time or part-time; elementary schools get random visits by law enforcement and school resource officers, she said.

Law enforcement is also available to be at schools more, either in uniform or in plain clothes, if that is requested, Eberhard said.

“With some incidents that have happened recently, all we have to do is ask," she said.

The district has a process of identifying students who staff think might be potential threats, Eberhard said. Cruz had been expelled from the Florida high school for disciplinary reasons.

In crafting its school shooter policies, the district incorporated state laws, national and state best practices and some components that are unique to Flagstaff, Eberhard said.

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Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or


Environment, Health and Science Reporter

Emery Cowan writes about science, health and the environment for the Arizona Daily Sun, covering everything from forest restoration to endangered species recovery efforts.

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