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Columbine happened just under 20 years ago, but the effects weigh heavier now than they ever have. Even in small towns like Waverly, Iowa.


Every 26.5 hours a mass shooting takes place in the United States.

The United States has not gone a full week without a mass killing since Jan. 18, 2013, and this year alone, 294 mass shootings have taken place, killing 321 and injuring 1220.

Two of those have occurred at schools, Vox reported. “Anybody can jump online, look at any media outlet and say the mass shootings that we’ve had in the United States have greatly increased,” Jason Leonard, captain of investigations for the Waverly Police Department, said.

“We’ve seen that gravitate now to where mass shootings are happening on a monthly basis and people see that it happens, but they don’t invest a lot of their time and resources into it.” Prior to 1999, mass shootings were not as publicized or common.

That year, the Columbine Massacre changed that. The incidents since then are known as a part of the “Columbine Effect,” in which potential school shooters seek inspiration from the event. The effect has inspired mass killings nearly 20 years later, including the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2017, according to Mother Jones.

“When Columbine happened, the direct response of law enforcement was to show up, set up a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team to penetrate the building to eliminate the threat,” Leonard said. “Most of America doesn’t have SWAT teams. Small town Waverly, Iowa, doesn’t. So that thought process had to change.”

Now, patrol officers are trained to enter the building within a squad force, by themselves or with a partner and are trained in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to assist in triage, Leonard said. The Waverly Police Department is also working to train the community and local schools to react in the case of an active shooter.

The department visits Wartburg College and Waverly-Shell Rock community schools and meets individually with parents, principals and education administrators to offer training and ensure such institutions are prepared.

“We don’t want to live in fear. What we’re been trying to do, in the concept of social and emotional learning, is trying to develop better relationships with our students and talking about it as a possibility, not a probability.


“We don’t want to live in fear,” David Fox, Waverly-Shell Rock’s (W-SR) senior high principal, said. “What we’ve been trying to do, in the concept of social and emotional learning, is trying to develop better relationships with our students and talking about it as a possibility, not a probability.”

Fox added that W-SR high schools’ staff is trained every three to five years. This includes training with strangers in the building, lock downs and escape routes in the case of a shooter.

High school students also participate. Wartburg’s faculty participates in similar training with Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), both on and off campus, Dan Kittle, Wartburg’s dean of students, said.

CERT is a national organization affiliated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency whose training focuses on preventative measures for mass shootings, such as what kinds of behaviors to look for and how to respond, as well as when and how to fight back or take shelter.

CERT training is also conducted in Wartburg’s Leadership Theories and Practices course to help prepare student leaders for such incidents. Kip Ladage, Bremer County’s emergency management coordinator, comes to class with airsoft guns and talented actors.


“They had makeup on and fake blood. We went through and had to triage, and it sucked because they were good actors and they would grab my leg and scream that they needed my help,” Nick Kennicker, a fourth-year fitness management major, said.

“But part of triage is that I have to get through each and every person, label their injuries and try to move on.” Along with triage, Kennicker said Ladage fired shots at participants using airsoft guns.

The students trained in out-maneuvering the shots and learned self-defense, such as finding common classroom objects and throwing these at the shooter. Ladage said it took the students several weeks to become comfortable throughout the 11-week training period.

As training progressed, he watched the group go from cautious to willing to step up. “I’m confident that if something were to happen here on campus, you’ve got some leaders right here that could help you out,” Ladage said. “The college is like so many other places, they want to be welcoming and open. But on the flip side of it, that does expose you to some risks. We offer our training to all, and that’s a big demand, but that way people know what their options are.”

“We should be thinking, we should be preparing for when that happens. That’s one of those things that’s paramount in trying to prevent mass killings.”


The summer of 2019, every school in Iowa joined in such preparations. Legislation required all Iowa schools to establish security plans advanced to

Senate last year after the Florida High School shooting, according to the Des Moines Register. Senate File 2253 required Iowa school boards to develop security plans for individual school buildings by June 30, 2019.

“Shootings are one of those things that happens in small towns across the U.S. Waverly’s no different. It has happened at different school campuses. Wartburg’s no different,” Leonard said.

“We should be thinking, we should be preparing for when that happens. That’s one of those things that’s paramount in trying to prevent mass killings.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a mass shooting as more than four casualties, which excludes 2019’s school shootings. Across the U.S., the FBI’s data states 25 mass shootings have taken place throughout the year.

This includes the El Paso shooting, which killed 22 and left an additional 24 injured.

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