Slaughter In Our Schools: The Terrorists' Chilling Plan?
Senior PoliceOne Contributor
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the last place you want to think of terrorists striking is
your kids' school. But according to two trainers at an anti-terrorism
conference on the East Coast, preparations for attacks on American
schools that will bring rivers of blood and staggering body
counts are well underway in Islamic terrorist camps.
intended attackers have bluntly warned us they're going to
already begun testing school-related targets here.They've
given us a catastrophic model to train against, which we've
largely ignored and they've learned more deadly
"We don't know for sure what they will do. No one knows
the future. But by definition, a successful attack is one we
are not ready for," declared one of the instructors, Lt.
Col. Dave Grossman. Our schools fit that description to a "T"-as
in Terrorism and Threat.
Grossman, the popular law enforcement motivational speaker,
and Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy and an advisory
board member for The
Police Marksman magazine, shared a full
day's agenda on the danger to U.S. schools at a recent three-day
conference on terrorist issues, sponsored by the International
Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) in Atlantic
They reminded the audience that patrol officers, including perhaps
some with their own children involved, will inevitably be the
first responders when terrorists hit. And they documented chilling
descriptions of the life-or-death challenges that likely will
In Part 1 of this three-part report on highlights of their presentations
we focus on what's
known about the threat to our schools to date, why terrorists
have selected them as targets, and what tactics you're likely
to be up against in responding to a sudden strike.
In Parts 2 and 3, we'll explore Grossman's and Rassa's recommendations
for practical measures you and your agency can take now to get
ready, including some defensive actions that don't require any
Why schools? Two reasons:
Our values. "The most sacred thing to us is our children, our babies," Rassa
said. Killing hundreds of them at a time would significantly "boost Islamic
morale and lower that of the enemy" (us). In Grossman's words, terrorists
see this effort as "an attempt to defile our nation" by leaving it "stunned
to its soul."
2. Our lack of preparation. Police agencies "aren't used to this," Rassa
said. "We deal with acts of a criminal nature. This is an act of war," but
because of our laws "we can't depend on the military to help us," at
least at the outset.
claimed, "the U.S. in the one nation in
the world where the military is not the first line of defense
against domestic terrorist attacks. By law, you the police officer
are our Delta Force. It is your job to go in, while in most other
nations cops will wait for the military to come save their kids."
Rassa said, "are not even close" to
being either mentally or physically prepared. "Most don't
even have response plans for handling a single active shooter.
Their world is taught to nurture and care for people. They don't
want to deal with this."
public, "sticking their heads in the sand,
can't be mentally prepared," he said. "They're going
to freak when it happens," their stubborn denial making
the crisis "all the more shocking."
Noting that "sheep have two speeds: 'graze' and 'stampede,'" Grossman
predicted that "not a parent in the nation will send their
kids to school the next day"-perhaps for many days-after
a large-scale terrorist massacre. If day-care centers-"also
on the terrorists' list"-are hit as well, "parents
will drop out of the work force" en masse to protect their
children and "our economy will be devastated."
How we know they're coming.
Al-Qaeda has publicly asserted the "right" to kill
2,000,000 American children, Rassa explained, and has warned
that "operations are in stages of preparation" now.
He played vivid videotapes confiscated in Afghanistan, showing
al-Qaeda terrorists practicing the takeover of a school. The
trainees issue commands in English, rehearse separating youngsters
into manageable groups and meeting any resistance with violence.
Some "hostages" are taken to the rooftop, dangled over
the edge, then "shot."
"Any place that has given [Islamic terrorists] trouble,
they've come after the kids," Grossman said. Muslim religious
literature, according to Rassa, states clearly that the killing
of children not only is "permitted" in Islam but is "approved" by
Mohammed, so long as the perpetrators "are striving for
the general good" as interpreted by that religion.
He cited instances in Indonesia where girls on their way to
school have been beheaded and in other countries where children
have been shot, mutilated, raped or burned alive.
In this country this year ['06], Rassa said, there have been
several school bus-related incidents involving Middle Eastern
males that raise suspicion of terrorist activity. These include
the surprise boarding of a school bus in Florida by two men in
trench coats, who may have been on a canvassing mission, and
the attempt in New York State by an Arab male to obtain a job
as a school bus driver using fraudulent Social Security documents.
The latter gave an address in Detroit, home to a large colony
of fundamentalist Muslims.
Rassa claimed that floor plans for half a dozen schools in Virginia,
Texas and New Jersey have been recovered from terrorist hands
The terrorists' tactical model.
A "dress rehearsal for what terrorists plan to do to us" has
already taken place, Rassa and Grossman agreed. That was the
brutal takedown in 2004 of a school that served children from
6 to 17 years old in Beslan, Russia.
Some 100 terrorists were involved, nearly half of whom were
discreetly embedded in the large crowd of parents, staff and
kids who showed up for the first day of school; the rest arrived
for the surprise attack in SUVs, troop carriers and big sedans.
Across a three-day siege, 700 people were wounded and 338 killed,
including 172 youngsters.
If a similar assault were launched against a school in your
jurisdiction, how would you and your agency respond? Consider
this modest sampling of challenges that were deliberately planned
or arose from the ensuing chaos at Beslan, as outlined by Rassa:
school was chosen because it was one of the taller buildings
in the area and had a very complicated floor plan, making a rapid
and effective counter-assault by responders extremely difficult.
Offender weaponry included AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPGs and explosives,
with everything the terrorists needed carried in on their backs.
RPGs were fired at a responding military helicopter and at troops.
- More than 1,000 men, women and children, including babies,
were penned in an unventilated gym and a cafeteria. As the
days passed without food or water and inside temperatures rose
115 degrees, survivors were eating flowers they'd brought
for teachers and fighting for urine to drink out of their shoes
desperation. Women and some children were repeatedly and
* Adult males and larger male students were used as "forced
labor" to help fortify the building, then shot to
death. Bodies were thrown out of an upper-story window,
down onto a
courtyard. Attempts at negotiation by responders were used
by the terrorists strictly as an opportunity to buy time
hostages were surrounded by armed guards standing on
deadman switches, wired to
explosives. All entrances
to the building as well as stairwells and some interior
booby-trapped. Youngsters were forced to sit on window
sills to serve as shields for snipers. "Black
suicide bombers) were rigged so their bomb belts
could be detonated by remote control when leaders
the timing was right.
The terrorists stayed cranked up on some type of
amphetamine to keep awake.
outraged parents and other civilians, some
of them drunk, showed up and started "rolling
gunfights" outside in
a futile effort to defeat the takeover. The crowd
identified one embedded terrorist and "literally
ripped him apart." The
media was everywhere, unrestrained. So many people
were milling around that responders often could
a clear field
troops finally stormed the school in a counter-assault on
the third day, "pure
Soldiers and the kids they were trying to rescue
were gunned down mercilessly.
Explosions touched off inside started multiple
who made it inside had to jump over trip wires as they "ran" up
stairs under fire from above. By then terrorists were
teams were subjected to continual ambushes.
Gunfights occurred predominately within a 6-ft. range,
with some responders
having to fight for their lives in places so
cramped they couldn't get
off their hands and knees.
children successfully rescued from the building were so
crazed by thirst that they
ran to an
outdoor spigot and were
killed by a grenade as they filled their
hands with water.
who escaped during the melee ran to homes of embedded sympathizers
and were not immediately
suspected because they were considered "non-strangers" in
the community. Some townspeople who volunteered
to help as stretcher bearers for the
injured were, in
the siege "at
least four people or agencies claimed
to be in charge.
one was in charge
and no one wanted
"Osama bin Laden has promised that what has happened in
Russia will happen to us many times over," Grossman warned. "And
Osama tries very hard never to lie to us."
What's likely here.
Probably not so many terrorists involved at a single location.
Moving that big a contingent into place would likely attract
too much attention and thwart the attack. Grossman describes
a more likely possibility, in his opinion:
cells of four operatives each might strike simultaneously at
four different schools. They may pick elementary schools,
or middle schools with no police officers on site, where the
girls are "old enough to rape" but students are not
big enough to fight back effectively.
may be in states "with no concealed-carry laws
and no hunting culture" and in communities where "police
do not have rifles." Rural areas could be favored, where
30 minutes or more might be required for responders to arrive
will probably "mow down every kid and teacher
they see" as they move in to seize the school. They may
plant bombs throughout the buildings, and "rape, murder
and throw out bodies like they did in Russia." Emergency
vehicles responding and children fleeing will be blown up by
car bombs in the parking lot.
In all, 100 to 300 children could be slaughtered in a first
capable of this are already embedded in communities "all
over America," Grossman and Rassa agreed. More will probably
gain entry surreptitiously from Mexico, making southern California
potentially a prime target.
No time for despair.
It's a grim picture, for certain. "But if we think there's
nothing we can do to prepare, that is a defeatist mentality," Rassa
said. "We ought to be trying. If we're not trying, we're
failing. We may as well give up our guns and surrender now.
think of a better thing to train up for than protecting our
kids. If we try but fall short, look at how much else we'll
still be able to handle than we can now.
made most of us do active-shooter training? The killings at
Columbine. Are we going to wait for something far worse than
that before we do the most that we can to stop the terrorists
who are coming for our schools?"
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"4 Ds" For
Thwarting Terrorists' Plans To Massacre Our School Children
[Editor's Note: In Part 1, we documented the plans of Islamic
terrorists to strike U.S. schools in murderous raids, claiming
the lives of hundreds of children, as reported at a recent anti-terrorism
conference, sponsored by the International Assn. of Law Enforcement
Firearms Instructors (IALEFI). In Part 2, we summarize countermeasures
proposed by one of the conference instructors, Lt. Col. Dave
Grossman, author of the popular books On
Killing and On
As Instructor Todd Rassa pointed out in our first installment,
if we are not trying to prepare for and thwart the daunting terrorist
threat to our schools and children, we are, in effect, conceding
defeat and surrendering without a battle to those who would obliterate
There is no simple master plan for an easy victory. But the
cumulative effect of many seemingly small countermeasures, effectively
applied on a large scale by individual officers and their agencies,
can have a powerful impact.
Here are some of the practicalities that Trainer Dave Grossman
suggested we consider in beginning to address the critical problem
of terrorists coming for our kids.
That's overcoming denial. And where schools and terrorist attacks
are concerned, denial abounds.
U.S. schools continue to take extensive and overt measures to
guard students against the threat of fire, with drills, alarms,
sprinkler systems, building codes, etc.-even though there has
not been a single child killed by fire in any American school
in the last 25 years, Grossman declared.
In contrast, well over 200 deaths have occurred from school
violence by active shooters and other non-terrorist offenders
over the last dozen years, and Islamic fundamentalists are believed
to be plotting attacks that will claim hundreds of child casualties
in a single blow. Yet efforts to significantly harden schools
as a target of violence have, for the most part, been slow, timid
"We need to treat the threat of violence like the threat
of fire. But if you try to prepare for violence, people think
you're crazy, paranoid," Grossman said.
is the enemy. It's a big, fluffy white blanket we pull up over
our eyes to convince ourselves the bad men are
never going to come. And while we pull that blanket up, bad guys
come and kick us in the crotch.
face the lessons terrorists have already taught us in blood
and lives. They are coming, and they may well come
for our schools, our kids. We've had all the warning in the world.
And if we continue living in denial, then all the lives they've
claimed to date have been sacrificed for nothing."
Grossman's 4 Ds.
Besides working to eliminate the big D (denial), Grossman cited
four others we need to focus on:
An armed police presence in a school can provide strong deterrence
against attack, Grossman argued. "Terrorists are willing
to die, but they desperately don't want to die for nothing,
without completing their tactical objective. They want a body
would-be attackers, many Israeli schools deploy on-site police
at squad-level strength, and armed guards accompany all
class fieldtrips, usually one per 10 students. But even with
a single armed officer in a school, "the prospects of a
massacre go way down," Grossman said.
security in or around schools is both pointless and ethically
derelict, in his opinion. "Don't give someone
responsibility for human lives and not give them the tools to
do the job. You wouldn't give a firefighter just a hat, uniform
and badge, and no hose or water."
Should teachers be armed? At least two states (Utah and New
Hampshire) now authorize concealed-carry permits in schools,
according to Grossman, and the Federal Safe Schools Act allows
for it. Faculty with military experience and a willingness to
receive additional training could be a starting point.
"Even one or two armed teachers in a school can make a
difference," Grossman said. But given the current American
mind-set, "you have to push this envelope very gently."
"The ultimate achievement is a terrorist takeover that doesn't
start," Grossman said. And officers being suspicious-"doing
what cops do"-are well positioned to interrupt attack plans
before they culminate.
Follow good criminal patrol procedures on traffic stops, for
instance, by asking probing questions and being alert for contradictions,
inconsistencies, irrationalities, unduly nervous behavior and
other indicators of deceit and guilty behavior. Be aware of what
you can see inside vehicles or on subjects that may merit closer
signs of static or mobile surveillance of potential targets.
Terrorists "always conduct a recon," which
may involve photographing or videotaping a prospective site,
Grossman said. Don't limit your suspicions just to persons who
fit the stereotypical terrorist profile. "There are terrorists
who are blond and blue eyed."
to report any calls from people inquiring about security. Someone
claiming to be a concerned parent wanting to
know if any armed officers are on the premises may in fact be
an operative gauging the vulnerability of the location. The staffer
taking the call should jot down the caller ID number and note
the precise time and the phone line the call came in on to facilitate
follow up checking by police. "Any time terrorists bounce
off a hard target is a chance to catch them."
If terrorists do strike, "one man or woman with effective
fire from behind cover inside the school can hold off a group
of attackers for 5 minutes," saving lives by buying time
until police responders "can get in the door," Grossman
at the first hint of trouble, teachers and children should
kick in to a preplanned and frequently rehearsed three-step "lock-down
model," he recommended. "Sheltering" children
in place, as has been attempted in various school shootings,
is more likely to be dangerous than protective. Instead, Grossman
advises potential victims to:
away from violence, which otherwise tends to be "mesmerizing
to a pre-selected secure location, someplace "secure
enough to keep the bad guys out until the cops come in"
again if you have reason to feel threatened at that spot. "Lock-down
does not mean hunker down and die," Grossman said.
"As a last resort," there may be times when a teacher
would need the courage to "go toward an attacker." Grossman
cited a case in which an active shooter broke a window in a classroom
door and reached through to release the locked knob. Teacher
and students cowered inside and just waited, whereas a teacher
might have "grabbed a chair and attacked his hand" and
possibly have delayed or deterred a fatal assault.
paper "mean nothing," Grossman reminded. "You
have to get the schools to rehearse" anti-terrorist scenarios. "Principals
have been fired for not doing fire drills," and yet the
terrorist threat these days is so much greater. Where are our
As a responding officer, you have to be fully prepared, mentally
and physically, to use deadly force to stop the threat. "It
is your job to put a chunk of steel in your fist and kill the
sons-of-bitches who are coming to kill your kids," Grossman
declared in an emotional crescendo in his presentation.
"Fight from the very beginning. Don't wait, thinking you'll
fight later." Referring to the terrorist massacre at the
school in Beslan, Russia, which we described in Part 1 of this
series, Grossman said: "Every minute the Russians waited,
the target got harder." If you hesitate in responding, "you'll
die with a bullet in the back of your head in front of children."
3 of 3
How To Prepare Yourself For Terrorist Attacks On Our Schools
[Editor's note: In previous installments, we documented the
plans of Islamic terrorists to murder hundreds of U.S. school
children, as reported at a recent anti-terrorism conference sponsored
by the International Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors
(IALEFI), and we summarized counter measures proposed by Lt.
Col. Dave Grossman.
In this final report, we explore recommendations of another
conference speaker, Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy
and a member of the advisory board for The
Police Marksman magazine.
We conclude with Grossman's suggestions of what LE agencies can
do to defend our schools despite current budget restraints.]
Trainer Todd Rassa considers active-shooter training, which is now
being embraced by more and more departments, as "a good start," but
he warned that much more is needed to adequately protect our children
from terrorist attacks on schools.
are some of the items he enumerated for a conscientious "to
1. Train every patrol officer in bomb awareness, crowd management,
riot control, ballistic shield tactics, team firing drills
and other response skills likely to be needed for a mass school
takedown. Responsibility for an immediate effective response
will most probably fall heavily on street cops, given the activation
time for most SWAT teams.
equipment needs to be readied. "Patrol rifles
are needed now-as many as possible with as much ammunition as
possible," Rassa stressed. Also ballistic shields, helmets
and other protective devices for every officer. Have a plan in
place to get large amounts of additional ammo to the scene ASAP.
Soft body armor may prove inadequate, but extras should be available
anyway in a better-than-nothing effort to protect fleeing hostages
by draping vests and ballistic blankets over them. Armored transport
vehicles may prove crucial. Less-lethal rounds may be useful
for crowd control, but will be futile to attempt against terrorists.
3. Work with
school officials to anticipate problems and realistically rewrite
their emergency plans. "They are not going to fix
themselves," Rassa predicted. Cross-train with school personnel
and consider involving community leaders with training on crowd-control
tactics and intel collection. Manpower and tactics will be needed
to handle "outraged, violent parents" if a siege develops.
SROs, who likely will be targeted by terrorists as first casualties,
need training on "surveillance awareness, including real-life
testing of school security" by would-be invaders.
your active-shooter training to include "large,
complicated, multi-adversary scenarios and exercises," Rassa
urged. Practice against a booby-trapped environment, simultaneous
attacks from multiple levels, ambushes from the rear. Rehearse
tactics for CQB with both pistol and rifle.
Also practice counter-assaults on school buses. "What if
terrorists hijacked a couple of buses and drove them into a school?
What if they hijacked several and spread them out across your
suicide-bomber shooting drills into your firearms training
for every officer. That should include "practicing
head shots from a distance with a pistol after running." Build
the ability to shoot while moving into your qualifications. Also
integrate self-defense DT into firearms training-"blending
two important worlds that usually never meet." Even consider
training with AK-47s and other "exotic" weapons that
may be in your property room, on the chance you may have to use
the weapons of neutralized terrorists if yours run empty.
6. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with your schools. Videotape
them inside and out and collect and review floor plans, making
sure they are kept up to date as remodeling projects take place.
Work with schools to get classroom numbers put on street signs
and mounted on the exterior. Also check to see if computers in
your squad cars can be made compatible with CCTV cameras inside
the building, so you can tie in to what's going inside in event
7. As a parent, you may want to falsify your occupation (as
a police office) on school records so your child will not be
easily identified as a desirable hostage.
8. And, of course, stage frequent incident-command training
and exercises, so multiple jurisdictions and multiple disciplines
(fire, police, EMS, city services, etc.) learn the importance
of putting political egos and turf wars aside in the interest
of saving children's lives.
Agency actions that don't take $$$
Dave Grossman, the well-known author of On Killing and On Combat,
concluded IALEFI's excellent conference with suggestions of
how LE agencies can improve their protection of schools without
further straining already tight budgets.
1. Encourage officers always to carry off-duty. Always.
No one can predict where a given officer might be when terrorists
strike. What if you were off-duty on a visit to your child's
school; would you have the primary life-saving tool of your
profession with you? Remember, Grossman said, "One person
behind cover with effective fire can hold down a whole company
of invaders for 5 minutes" while help arrives.
" If we stop them dead in one school and kill them before they
kill kids, that will convince the country that we can fight back.
If they fail in one school, that will undermine their plan.
" If you walk out off-duty without your gun, every time you pass
a fire exit or see a fire extinguisher, say to yourself, 'Firefighters
have made more preparations than I have.' Plant the seed with
other officers. Once you tell them, they can't not think about
2. Exploit opportunities to expand your equipment inventory.
cash-strapped agencies now encourage officers to buy and
carry their own rifles on duty. If certain standards
and training are maintained, that's a quick way to strengthen
should also be encouraged to prepare and ride with "go
bags" that can be slung over their shoulder
as they head into a crisis. Loaded with backup
boxes of pistol and rifle ammo,
these can be comforting safeguards against running
dry in a firefight, where "three magazines
can easily be burned up in less than a minute."
the name and phone number of every private owner
of a helicopter in your area and coordinate
ahead of time a plan for
pressing their chopper into service in an emergency.
Even news agencies might be willing to cooperate
if promised "great
footage" in exchange for transporting officers
to a siege site. As medivac helicopters go in,
come in full
of armed police, and go out full of wounded.
There will be gridlock chaos on the ground within moments wherever
an attack comes," Grossman said. "Helicopters
can be great for getting firepower in and wounded
hovering over schools and landing personnel on
the flat roofs that most have.
fire hoses as "crew-served weapons." At
a terrorist scene, hoses can be used not only "to
put out fires that may be caused by booby traps" but
can also "knock
a combatant out of a window 50 yards away-an
incredibly effective weapon."
A firefighter directing the hose can be protected
behind two officers holding ballistic shields
and two officers behind the
shields with rifles, Grossman suggested. Obviously,
this tactic requires practice well before it's
3. Build the right mind-set in your troops.
As a police officer, "you have to have your heart and mind
ready," Grossman said. "In our nation, the military
is not coming to save your kids. You are the Delta Force. It's
your job to go in like thunder when they come to kill your kids
and destroy your way of life.
" Get training-all you can. Advance steadily along the warrior
path. Live life in Condition Yellow, vigilant readiness. Cultivate
hobbies that reinforce your survival skills."
He conjured a bumper sticker that says, Piss on golf. Real Americans
go to the range. "We don't have time for childish pursuits," he
" Most people in our society are sheep. Wolves will feed on them
without hesitation. Anyone who thinks there are no wolves is
" You are the sheepdog, the protector. When bad stuff comes, the
sheepdog is prepared, even eager. If you are not ready, who is?"
About Charles Remsberg
Chuck co-founded the original Street Survival Seminar and the
Street Survival Newsline, authored three of the best-selling
law enforcement training textbooks, and helped produce numerous
award-winning training videos. His nearly three decades of work
earned him the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding
contributions to law enforcement and the American Police Hall
of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in public service.