Seven Lessons Learned from a 2021 School Shooting

lessons learned from school shooting

Two students and one adult were shot during the Rigby Middle School (RMS) shooting in May 2021. The Idaho School Safety and Security (ISSS) program completed an after-action review, which included interviewing key staff and first responders about what happened that day.   

“The response to the Rigby Middle School attack demonstrated the effectiveness of a planned, coordinated, trained, and exercised emergency operations plan,” the ISSS report states. “As with any incident, there will always be lessons to be learned.”  

In our whitepaper, Lessons Learned from a 2021 Middle School Shooting, we summarize some of the findings from their analysis and discuss best practices that Raptor has learned through our partnerships with K-12 safety experts and over 35,000 schools across the country. 

Preview of the Seven Lessons Learned

Schools should consider these lessons learned to strategically improve their safety initiatives.

  1. Have a Method to Gather Information and Assess Threats
    “Research indicates that in most cases of school violence, students are aware of concerning behaviors before school officials are,” according to the report. This was the case at RMS. 
  2. Collaborate with Local Public Safety for Better Response Efforts
    The district and their local law enforcement have an established relationship and commitment to their school resource officer (SRO) program. “This commitment,” according to the report, “had several collateral benefits on the day of the incident at RMS.” 
  3. Implement Standardized Response Protocols 
    The district’s emergency response protocol allowed staff to make decisions based on their immediate circumstances. Staff could choose to lockdown or evacuate based on what they believed would keep their students safer. During the incident—and unaware that the attacker moved outside—one classroom decided to evacuate. As they ran outside, the attacker shot at them. 
  4. Ensure Clear Communication
    “The first areas to lockdown during the RMS incident were classrooms within the immediate area of the attack. Nearby staff secured their areas and attempted to contact the front office so the front office could initiate lockdown procedures, as this was the established protocol at the time,” the report details. Alarmingly, there were many areas within the school—including portable classrooms—that were unaware of the active shooting and did not know to lockdown.  
  5. Have a Robust Reunification Plan
    The district had a reunification plan prior to the RMS incident. Several factors that day caused the district to deviate from their original plan. “Although a process was in place at RMS to update the classroom roll sheets, the process was unevenly applied, and staff members reported needing to update the roll sheets by hand to begin the reunification process,” the report highlights as a lesson learned. 
  6. Consider Additional Mental Health Support
    Returning to school after a violent attack is challenging. Many students and staff will be traumatized from the crisis and will need additional support. The mental health support needed—for both students and staff—may be more than the district’s capacity. 
  7. Plan to Reopen Safely
    The report recommends, “Evidence of the attack should be repaired or cleaned before resuming school, but this task may cause additional trauma for individuals. Second, even damage not directly related to the incident may have a traumatizing effect on students.” 

Download the Whitepaper to Learn More

To continue reading about the lessons learned—and what experts recommend schools consider when developing safety programs—download our white paper, Lessons Learned from a 2021 Middle School Shooting.