Teachers Train in Tackling Threats

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) -- About 15 teachers from Morgan, Lawrence, and Limestone Counties got some first-hand training Saturday in how to deal with an intruder attack.

Premier Martial Arts of Decatur hosted the Faculty Threat Options Workshop.

We're hoping to reach more school officials, specifically school staff and school teachers because we know that hey need an extra layer of protection to protect themselves and protect those precious children that they're guardians of," Michelle Chenault said.

She was a school teacher for 16 years before joining her husband Jerry as an instructor at the martial arts and self defense school, and once had to take a knife away from a student.

They learned about and practiced confronting an attacker in numbers, with the idea that while someone may get shot, a group can overpower an individual.

"He's seeing things coming and that's when he gets tackled, bam, and that's when we use those weapons that you have," Jerry Chenault said.

David Williams, who recently retired from the Decatur Police Department, showed the teachers how they could use things normally found in classrooms to defend themselves.

Williams first picked up a fire extinguisher.

"It uses a propellant and that propellant does what?" Williams asked the teachers.

"It takes air out of fire, right, and think about what it will do to [an attacker].  And now somebody comes in and you have that and you spray.  You use that, with that distraction if [an attacker] came in with a firearm and suddenly [the attacker is] sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher, absolutely [it will distract them]," he said.

"Am I saying it's the be all end all?  No, but what I'm talking about is the greatest extreme.

"Once you commit to this course of action, you must commit whole-heartedly, you must commit as much violence of action as you can to survive the situation," Williams said.

Then he grabbed a broom.

"People would think to swing the brush end, but not in this case," Williams said.

"You're much more effective to use it in a jabbing motion or a striking motion."

Williams demonstrated how they could use other items such as scissors, hole punchers, and staplers, he told them they could have students throw books, and said stacks of textbooks in a backpack could be used as a shield in a dire situation.

"You're much more likely to survive if you fight back," Jerry Chenault said.

The teachers also worked on some basic hand to hand defense, such as trying to disarm a gunman within reach, and some basic attack strikes using their knees.

"When you get in close quarters to deal with somebody with a gun, you won't have anything to use on them if you're bare handed," Jerry Chenault told the teachers.

Tanner High School English teacher Melody Etheridge came with her daughter Mikala, who is currently student teaching as she completes her college degree.

"I'm really glad I came," Melody said.  "I think I want to come back and take classes."

She said there was a lockdown drill at Tanner soon after the shooting in Sandy Hook.

"We did a lot of talking with our students and heard some of their fears and some of their concerns about our lockdown plan and I thought this would be a good idea of things I could bring back to them.  Tell them look, we've got other tools they could use to help them feel safer.  It's going to be good for them," she said.

Etheridge said she had concerns during the lockdown about whether she would have the guts to make the right call in an intruder situation, but said her confidence grew Saturday.

"I feel a little better about it, I feel like I could go forward instead of retreating," she said.

This was the first of what the Chenaults hope will be many defense classes for teachers.

"I would love for the schools to contact us.  We would be willing to go free of charge or we can organize events here at our facility for them," Michelle Chenault said.

They also plan to hold workshops for children and parents on upcoming Saturdays.

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