Teacher Flees School

9 October 2022

On November 3, 2022, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (Maryland) received a 911 call from a local coffee shop that there had been multiple stabbings at a nearby Elementary School. The 911 center immediately dispatched deputies to both locations as well as contacted the school. The school leadership informed dispatch that no one had been stabbed but that they were missing 1 teacher and 27 fifth graders.

Deputies responded to the school and confirmed that no one had been stabbed.

Deputies responded to the coffee shop and found the teacher in her bra and 27 students in different stages of dress. The students were cold, some shirtless, one missing a shoe, and many with cuts from pushing through thick woods.

When questioned, the teacher stated that she had wanted to take the students outside but when she called the main office for permission, she received no reply and became afraid. She stated that the school was eerily quiet and fearing that there had been a stabbing, she immediately fled the school. She then led the students through the woods where she instructed the students to discard any bright clothing as well as any device that had a GPS tracking system such as phones, Fitbits, and watches.

The teacher also discarded her shirt and cell phone. She left her radio at the school. Later it was discovered that the battery was dead.

While walking with the students, she stopped at least twice. Once in a person’s backyard and another time to flag down a FedEx truck where she asked the driver to let her and the students load into his truck. The driver declined because of a lack of space. The teacher then led her class to a nearby coffee shop which was approximately 1 mile from the school.

When they arrived at the coffee shop, the teacher asked an employee to call 911.

One hour after that call to 911, the event ended, and the students were bused back to the school. The deputies placed the teacher into protective custody, transporting her to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Points of Interest:

  1. This event is incredibly sad, scary, and baffling. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Eyewitness accounts are slowly trickling in and if these are true, things are far worse than what was reported. As of 8 November, I can’t find any update on the teacher’s status or the well-being of the students. I sincerely hope that everyone is okay.
  2. There was a comment made during an interview in which a spokesperson said that the teacher, “Did what she was trained to do.”

    This statement was made in reference to the teacher leaving the school and having the students, as well as herself, remove brightly colored clothes, and discarding all devices that may have GPS.

    I have to stress that it was clear that the person who made this comment wasn’t agreeing or disagreeing with the teacher’s actions…just stating the fact that she did what she was trained to do.

    However, this statement appears to imply that she did the right thing. Not that she was correct in her discernment of the situation, but that she did what she had been trained to do after a threat is perceived which is to immediately flee the building, get as far away as possible, and seek shelter.

    To me, that is a problem.

    If she really followed her training, her training led her to do something that was not in her best interest. She should have stayed in her classroom. She should have used  HIDE and not RUN especially since she didn’t know if the threat was real, where it was, or if the person or persons had any weapons and if so, what kind and how many.

    In this situation and under these circumstances, doing a HIDE or a lockout would have been the easiest, quickest, and the best for her and her students.

    I’m afraid that the teacher was taught to utilize RUN to the exclusion of everything else. I have heard this advice firsthand by other safety professionals, parents, and those wishing to help. My kids at college received the same instructions—the moment you hear gunfire or perceive a threat, immediately run to the nearest exit, and get away from the school.

    It’s not that I’m against fleeing the building. I’m against training a person to do only one thing while there are other options that can be and have been proven to be extremely effective.

    Most people survive a school attack by locking down.

    Those who flee the building almost always survive.

    Train both, use both, and let your situation dictate your best course of action.

    As far as FIGHT…

    Everyone fights in a crisis. Just fight the best way you can. Run, hide, barricade, go physical with the attacker, survive…it’s all fighting.


  3. People never do what they should do, they do what they can. This is not a putdown but a reminder. After thirty years of training people, I can say unequivocally that it’s not enough to simply tell a person what to do. You must also make sure that they can do it!

    Telling a teacher to use Run, Hide, Fight is only one step. The next and arguably the most important step is to make sure they can do it.

    The principle of Space & Distance is the key for making this possible.

    Space is a door, desk, wall, classroom, building—anything—that you can put between you and the attacker therefore gaining Distance from the violence.

    Space & Distance is the threshold for knowing when to switch and which strategy to choose.

    For example, a teacher calls the main office but she doesn’t get a reply. She’s afraid and believes that there is a threat in the school. She immediately closes her door (should already be locked) therefore putting Space between her and the threat which automatically gives her Distance from the violence.

    Therefore, HIDE is the best strategy.

    A teacher is in a lockdown and the threat approaches her room. It tries to get in but can’t. The teacher is able to maintain Space & Distance.

    Therefore, staying in HIDE is still the best strategy.

    A teacher is in a lockdown and the threat approaches her room. It appears that the threat may be able to get into the classroom. She is afraid that she will not be able to maintain Space& Distance.

    Therefore, transiting from HIDE to RUN seems to be the best strategy.

    The teacher is in the hall with her class. A lockdown is called. Her classroom is on the opposite side of the school and the classrooms nearest her have already closed their doors. She’s in the hall so she doesn’t have Space. She can run back to her classroom but she’s worried that she may accidentally run into the threat and therefore reduce instead of lengthening her Distance from violence. There is an exit at the end of the hall so she decides to flee the building and in doing so, she will get both Space & Distance.

    Therefore, RUN is the best strategy.

    Space & Distance is the key. If you can maintain it you’re doing the right thing. If you can’t maintain it then transition into something else.

    Above all, Space & Distance ensures that our teachers can effectively implement the life saving strategies of Run, Hide, Fight.

Teachers are incredibly capable people. They’re planners and they want to know exactly what to do. They have big hearts, lots of positive energy, and unfailing determination. They’re used to making lots of decisions and are comfortable with taking action.

We should remember these strengths and mirror them in our trainings. Teachers deserve more choices, solid thresholds, and more mechanisms for making better safety decisions.

It’s never enough to tell them what to do. We must make sure that they can do it. If we do this I promise you our schools will be safer, happier, and more successful.


If you like the concept and see the benefits of Space & Distance, we offer a 1 day train-the-trainer for school districts in all three principles of Act Fast.

Space & Distance is prinicple #2.

Learn how to teach, share, and ensure your teachers can implement these principles.

Email for more details.

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