Some Ore. schools changing tactics to respond to weapons, threats

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The stabbing spree at a Pennsylvania high school Wednesday morning is another reminder that schools must be prepared for any kind of violent attack, not just shootings, a Beaverton police officer said.

Kevin Sutherland is the Beaverton School District's Director of Public safety. He's also an active duty police officer. He told the On Your Side Investigators that his district - in coordination with several local law enforcement agencies - has been evolving threat assessment tactics for years.

"We're changing mindset and terminology to keep pace with the people that are trying to do harm," Sutherland said. "What we're trying to do as we do training and educating, is we think about 'active threats', not 'active shooters'."

An active threat could include any sort item that could hurt a student or staff member, including baseball bats, knives, or golf clubs, Sutherland said.

"When you think of a knife and people being cut with a knife, (I think) how horrible that is," Sutherland continued. "I think any kind of knife or gun - that's more up close and very personal and it's a very violent person crime."

Most Oregon school districts have policies for "lock outs" - when the threat is outside the building and staff locks the doors to keep them out, or "lock ins" when students are kept inside classrooms and other safe areas for protection. If someone were to bring a knife and try to hurt several people inside a Beaverton hallway or classroom, Sutherland said it's conceivable students and staff could follow a couple of emergency response situations.

"I think we would want to do a combination ... because each scenario different," Sutherland said.

"What we're trying to do is create that boundary or barrier of time to let that law enforcement come and respond. And if somebody has a knife and they're right there at you, you have to run. You have to get away from them so they can't get at you. If you can put a locked door between you and that person, so much the better."

Sutherland said the Beaverton school district works regularly with several law enforcement and fire agencies including the Washington County Tactical Negotiation Team. This group helps train all local law enforcement on how to respond to active threats.

They coordinate with school districts to be prepared if an attack happens on campus.

Sutherland also said the Beaverton School District has ongoing training including one district-wide "lock out" a year. He said individual schools also train for one "lock out" and one "lock in" a year.

Weapons by the numbers: Beaverton

The On Your Side Investigators uncovered the number of students disciplined for bringing weapons to school within the Beaverton School District.

In the 2010-2011 school year, 105 students were disciplined, according to district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler.

The following year, 86 were disciplined. In the 2012-2013 school year, 90 students were disciplined for bringing weapons to school.

That's out of about 39,000 students. Wheeler said she could not break down the numbers by specific weapon but said they could including anything from knives and air-soft guns, to real guns, and brass knuckles, among other things.

Weapons by the numbers: Oregon

According to the Oregon Department of Education, in the 2012-2013 school year, 218 students were expelled across the state for bringing weapons to school. KATU compiled numbers for students expelled for bringing weapons to school in some of the area's larger school districts:

Gresham-Barlow: 5
Hillsboro: 5
N. Clackamas: 5
Portland Public Schools: 5
Tigard-Tualatin: 12
Reynolds: 22
Salem-Keizer: 46