The Sandy Hook shootings remind us how vulnerable children are in what we think of as a sanctuary. It spawned debate about gun control, but little discussion on the broader topic of school security.
In fact, the only proposal put forth than managed to rise above the din of the political and cultural chattering class that actually addressed school safety was the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre's recommendation to station trained, armed security guards at all schools. That proposal was roundly rejected as nonsensical, brutish and out-of-touch (despite the fact that approximately 40% of the nation's public schools already have armed guards assigned to their buildings).
Why this mad dash to embrace gun control as the answer to the problem of how to avoid future school shootings? There's the obvious reason that the Sandy Hook tragedy is being used to advance a political agenda of gun control (˜never let a crisis go to waste'). But that oversimplifies the situation. A deeper examination shows that the gun control ˜solution' is so popular because it is, apparently, free. There's no cost to the school and no obvious cost to the taxpayer. There may not be any additional cost to the government agencies that oversee firearm regulation and registration “ different regulations, but not necessarily additional burden.
Can it really be that simple? Can enhancing the safety and security of the nation's K-12 schools and college campuses really be free? Not in the real world . . . because guns aren't the only weapons available to perpetrators and not all risks to students emanate from outside the building. In the real world, the answers aren't that simple and the price tag isn't free.
Experts in school safety and security agree that the most important considerations for keeping staff and children safe is a design for prevention of violent incidents and a plan for response if an incident does occur. Nearly all schools in the country have these two pieces - a design for prevention and a plan for response “ already in place. The problem is they are on paper and not in practice.
Security cameras that are in the proper location, but that don't function or are not monitored can't alert you that an intruder is in the building. Emergency response plans that are issued with the staff handbook are, but are never practiced via mock drills or simulations, do not represent ˜training' in the true sense of the word.
As school districts across the nation once again ponder how they can be more effective at assessing threats, designing in measures of prevention and being prepared to respond in a crisis, there is a proven resource they can turn to for assistance: The University of Findlay's All Hazards Training Center. The experts at Findlay have been helping schools design/revamp their physical security, response procedures and training exercises with customized solutions that account for the school's environment and limitations.
Findlay not only offers school safety and security training for administration, school resource officers (SROs) and teachers, it brings in local law enforcement and first responders to effect a comprehensive community approach to school safety. Their instructors and consultants can perform an audit of the school's physical security system (alarms, locks, surveillance) and recommend changes and upgrades. They can train personnel on threat assessment “ how to recognize the signs of tension and conflict among students and those who interface with the school “ so confrontations and violence can be prevented in the first place.
Finally, the All Hazards Training Center staff help school district personnel design an actionable Emergency Response Plan and then implement ˜live action' exercises where the plan is implemented in response to a simulated threat, a school shooting in progress, or even a natural disaster.
Meaningful school safety and security training is not free, but it is effective at safeguarding children and school staff. No legislation will keep weapons out of the hands of someone intent on perpetrating violence on innocent children, but preparation and training just may keep them from ever entering the school or causing so much bloodshed if they do manage to enter.