SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Penn. — A superintendent told lawmakers that his students can protect themselves against potential school shooters with rocks -- specifically, a huge bucket of stones kept inside classrooms.
Dr. David Helsel, head of the Blue Mountain School District in Pennsylvania, testified to the House Education Committee last week in Harrisburg.
“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone. If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned,” Helsel said.
He told PIX11 News' sister station WNEP that the idea was his.
“At one time, I just had the idea of river stone: they're the right size for hands, you can throw them very hard and they will create or cause pain, which can distract,” Helsel he told the station.
Helsel said teachers, staff and students were given active shooter training through a program known as Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) and they routinely hold evacuation drills while simulating an active shooter scenario.
But if teachers and students are locked down and can't leave the school, there are buckets of rocks kept in every classroom closet that students could throw if a shooter gets inside.
Helsel said rocks are seen as a last resort.
“We have devices installed in our doors that help to secure them, to make it very difficult to break through,” Helsel said. “We also have -- we train kids and talk about barricading the doors.”
A senior at a high school in the district said he and other students like that plan.
“It matters because it will help protect the schools, anything helps, rocks are better than books and pencils," he said.
Parents like it, too.
“At this point, we have to get creative. We have to protect our kids first and foremost. Throwing rocks... it's an option,” Dori Bornstein said.
But not everyone thinks this is a practical line of defense.
“I think that's rather comical,” a college student in Schuylkill Haven said.
Another parent called it "absurd" and instead suggested that teachers be armed with guns.
Helsel said the district has no plans to arm teachers. However, Blue Mountain does have a maintenance employee who is trained and certified to work as school security and is armed.
The district plans to have more support staff get similar training that would let them act as security.