Two former military special operations officers who specialize as security consultants say the primary answer to providing immediate security for students in public schools is to have “classroom defenders,” which are teachers and other school personnel trained to be armed. Jay Johnson and Dan Smith have consulted on providing security around the world for governments and private entities and both Dickson County residents are participating in a special committee created to review safety standards in the school system. At a committee meeting Wednesday, both Smith and Johnson said the natural reaction to events such as the Connecticut school shooting is to “physically harden schools” with security systems and structural changes. But Johnson pointed out that Sandyhook Elementary had such a security system that didn’t stop the young shooter who broke through a window. Johnson said a shooter determined to get inside a building is virtually impossible to stop and that in other school shooting incidents, the shooters were students who were already inside the building. Johnson and Dickson Police Chief Ricky Chandler have both said that the critical response to an armed intruder in a school takes place in the initial moments, well before law enforcement can be on the scene. Johnson and Smith both said the first step should be training and arming selected school personnel, whether it be with firearms or less lethal weapons such as Tasers or chemical agents. They also said teachers can be trained on using items commonly found inside a classroom as improvised weapons. But both men emphasized the importance of getting the right “mindset” in which a teacher with proper training can react instinctively without having to stop to consult a manual or safety plan in an active event. Johnson said the leaders of the county’s Special Operations Response Team identified Vanleer Elementary, White Bluff Elementary and Stuart-Burns Elementary are primary schools to be reviewed for safety procedures because of their more remote locations, which make for longer response times by emergency personnel. Johnson said it also is important that all schools have an alternative access point for first responders so they are not blocked out if traffic is choked down by concerned parents trying to get to their children’s schools. The committee also discussed safe rooms, critical response kits, ways to secure doors and lockdown protocols as it continues to work on recommendations for improving school safety.