An inside look at how a Portsmouth school trains to deal with an active shooter

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. - After deadly school shootings have shocked the country, children are now being taught what do in case there is an active shooter in their school.

News 3 got exclusive access to see what it's like inside Central Christian Academy as an active shooter drill took place.

The alarm goes off, students and teachers react.

School Administrator Dawn Stephens said, “Your first thought is keeping the kids safe.”

The doors are shut and locked as the windows are covered and the lights go out.

Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office Captain Lee Cherry said, “The doors are shut, the lights are cut off, so even if a bullet through the glass of the door it’s not going to hit the student and the students have to go through this type of drill to know how to react under these conditions.”

School shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech have forced law enforcement and school leaders to make changes in protocol in schools throughout Hampton Roads.

They have plans in place to handle lock downs.

“Various parts of the program have changed as we have learned more things from each shooting, what we should do and what we shouldn't do,” said Captain Cherry.

Captain Cherry said Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson started a program for the private school three years ago in an effort to keep them safe.

Stephens said they are required by law to do the drill twice a year – but they try practice several times a year to make sure they’re prepared.

 According to CDC's School Associated Violent Death Study, between 14 and 34 school-age children are victims of homicide on school grounds on their way to and from school—each and every year.

  • Most school-associated violent deaths occur during transition times – immediately before and after the school day and during lunch. 

  • Violent deaths are more likely to occur at the start of each semester.

  • Nearly 50 percent of homicide perpetrators gave some type of warning signal, such as making a threat or leaving a note, prior to the event.

  • Firearms used in school-associated homicides and suicides came primarily from the perpetrator's home or from friends or relatives.

  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 5-18. Data from this study indicate that between 1% and 2% of these deaths happen on school grounds or on the way to or from school. These findings underscore the importance of preventing violence at school as well as in communities.