[Strategy] | Schoolhouse Rocks | Harper's Magazine

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Schoolhouse Rocks


From testimony given in March by David Helsel, the superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, in Pennsylvania, at a meeting of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives education committee. Hal English is a state representative.

david helsel: Our district has been training staff and students in an armed-intruder defense plan. Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket full of river stone. If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance, they will face a classroom full of students armed with rocks. And they will be stoned. 

hal en­glish: I’m intrigued by the rocks. Do you give slingshots?

helsel: No, we have some people who have pretty good arms. They can chuck a rock pretty fast. 

en­glish: Did you consider any other nonlethal methods, such as rubber bullets? 

helsel: Obviously the teachers have pepper spray. The rocks are just for students. We used to have them huddle underneath desks. We’ve learned from Virginia Tech: the gentleman that did it went to a shooting range a week before and put the targets on the ground because he knew students were going to be under the desks. 

The idea is we have rocks. Some people have golf balls. But golf balls bounce around. I was afraid of collateral damage with our kids, so I thought, the rocks won’t bounce. We had a dump truck go over to a landscaper and get river stone. They’re nice, they’re smooth, and you can hurl them pretty quickly, and hard. 

en­glish: I commend your practical thinking.