The teacher was explaining a part of Native American culture to a class of 'students' at Big Sky High School when suddenly multiple ear-splitting gunshots broke out in the hallway, and a heavily armed man forced his way into the classroom.

This was active shooter training at Big Sky High School on Monday, a training event that included an 'armed intruder' bent upon killing and maiming as many students and faculty as possible in a short amount of time.

photo by Peter Christian

As shown in the accompanying video, rather than running away and hiding, several of the individuals in the room tackled the intruder, taking away his weapon, and disabling him on the ground until law enforcement could arrive. In the scenario, one person received a gunshot wound to the neck, while others rendered as much medical aid as possible.

Communications Director for Missoula County Public Schools, Hatton Littman outlined the steps teachers and staff have been learning over the past 18 months:

"We've already started training our employees on a Run, Lock, Fight response," Littman said. "So rather than just lock the doors and turn out the lights, the approach has changed to first run away from the threat, then, if possible, lock yourself in a safe area. Then, if that doesn't work and the threat comes to you, we've been teaching our staff how to effectively fight back, and how to coordinate their efforts to fight back."

Public Information Officer for the Missoula Police Department, Travis Welsh laid out the scenario:

"There's simulated gunfire, there is an actor who portrays the gunman, and all the weapons that are being used are training weapons, they are not real," Welsh said. "The gunman is dressed in a protective, padded suit, to prevent him from being injured when the classroom participants respond to put him down. However, the reactions from the people in the classroom are real and that's why the actor is padded up, so the participants can react to the situation in real time."

Throughout the day, volunteers played the part of students, fleeing from the school screaming and crying, while others raced for the parking lot to get away from the school. Paramedics and ambulances treated the 'wounded', and took them, sirens blaring, to local hospitals.

Littman said one of the problems with Missoula' public schools as they exist today is their design makes it difficult to control entrance to the school building and rapidly lock down the classrooms in the event of an active shooter, something that would change should the $158 million November bond issue be passed by Missoula voters.

One of the trainers, Community Service Officer with the Police Department, John Weber, said the classroom response on Monday rated a grade of A minus.