The Sandy Hook massacre left many teachers in Central Florida wondering, “What would I do if a gunman stormed into my classroom?"
Local 6 cameras went inside a Seminole County classroom to see how some teachers, on their own, are actually learning to battle back.
Many teachers are taught to lock their classroom door, hide, hunker down and turn off the lights, hoping the gunman would pass right on by.
Adam Lanza's rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in December reminded teachers, school districts, and law enforcement that the rules have changed. More and more gunman who choose schools as their targets are looking for mass casualties and are prepared to die.
In the first moments of training, Local 6 cameras caught Lake Mary police Officer Zach Hudson yelling to his teacher trainees, "Alright ladies, we have an active shooter in the building. I need a weapon now. Go go go! Get a weapon, quick! You got 5 seconds!"
That’s because seconds count, and in every classroom little lives are on the line.
Within seconds of the mock "gunman" bursting into the practice classroom, the teachers are taught to storm him. All the while, Hudson is yelling commands to remind them of what they’re supposed to do.
“Hit ‘em. Strike, hit ‘em, hit ‘em, gun gun gun, there we go!, Dump 'em!" he says.
They are teachers who would do anything for our children, and they're learning how to do anything it takes, but only if they have no other choice. Officer Hudson reminds them that fighting back is only a last resort.
As Hudson trains them, he yells, "The alternative is to die. This is your alternative: You fight. You survive."
Hudson and 5th-degree black belt Mike Friedman co-invented the training program and co-developed the techniques. Friedman is the owner and head instructor at Champion Karate School in Lake Mary where he and Hudson offer regular self-defense training to teachers.
"I hope that I can act and not react. I think it is teaching me to do that, to do more with my body than I thought I could," said Stacy Alston, an elementary school teacher's aide.
"I would give my life for my students, not just my kids. I care that much about the kids I'm teaching," said Sarah Sego, a preschool teacher. "I would throw myself in the line of fire for them. I would. They're 4 and 5. They're so vulnerable. If someone comes into the building with a weapon, I'm it."
Hudson says besides this training, teachers have other advantages against a gunman they may not realize.
“The teachers have something to their advantage -- numbers," Hudson said. "You're going to have teachers in multiple rooms. You've got to use those loud verbal commands like, 'Gun, gun, gun. I have his gun help me!' You've got to be loud, aggressive, and get those teachers on the same page as you and stop that threat," Hudson tells his trainees.
Hudson says if a gunman enters your classroom and you have no other choice but to fight back, there is always a way, even in a classroom. He shows the teachers how to spill marbles on the floor so a gunman would slip and fall. Or spilling soapy water on the floor by the doorway. Or using a pair of scissors, which makes a "phenomenal weapon," according to Hudson.
"The truth of the matter is that the bad guy, he's already decided that he's probably going to die that day. He's already accepted that. Hunkering down and hiding doesn’t work. It hasn't worked since Columbine," said Hudson.
In the past, elementary school teacher Shelley Thompson, an elementary school teacher, told Local 6 she thinks she "would have been so fearful gone into shock." Now she says she has the courage and the tools, she hopes, to have a chance at protecting her children if she is forced to.
“I don't look at it like it's doing Karate on anyone. I look like it's defending their children and my students," she said.
It's important to note that all of the teachers voluntarily took Hudson's and Friedman's self-defense training. These tactics are not district policy anywhere in Central Florida and no known schools or districts are considering adopting the techniques. All districts have their own policies and procedures in place to deal with active-shooter scenarios and all teachers and administrators are trained in those district policies and procedures.
However, Hudson told Local 6 that two schools in Seminole County, individually, are reaching out to him, to train teachers.
There will be another self-defense class next month at Lake Mary Champion Karate.