During a presentation at a school and campus safety conference last week I included a slide based on research from the CDC. The report, Understanding School Violence, cited that 4.1% of students reported taking a weapon to school in the last 30 days. For several of the school resource officers in the group there was a look of puzzlement. For me to state that about 1 in 25 students was armed in the school was a bit of a surprise. The next slide I presented was based on a quick Google search of two words, ‘school gun’. The result was a list of news articles from the previous two days. There were 8 news stories of arrests of students in middle and high schools that had brought a gun into a school. My question to the group was: “If these are the weapons we know about, how many are really out there?”
An October 3rd headline out of New York is telling for what schools face across the country; NYPD stats: Crime down, but sharp spike in school weapon confiscation. The article mentions the recent stabbing murder and aggravated battery of two students by another student. While the story did make some national news there was an important revelation from the mayor; “The new statistics showed the number of weapons in city schools is up 48 percent, and Mayor de Blasio acknowledged students have, for years, armed themselves in schools.” Students arming themselves to counter an onslaught of bullying is nothing new. Last month, a student in Freemont High School in Washington state killed a fellow student in a small, rural community in reaction to what the shooter felt was endless bullying. This is reaching epidemic proportions across the country.
The reaction to these events is typical. A large amount of money is thrown at exterior security including access control, surveillance, and metal detectors. While all of these measures have a role to play, if the intention is to deter violence and reduce casualties, then these measures have been shown to fail time and again. The two things that we know work are notification and empowered staff. When students recognize that teachers can and will protect them from a violent attacker then they won’t feel the need to arm themselves. The SafeDefend system was developed in direct response to this principle. As administrators consider how to tackle a problem that could result in the death or serious harm of a student they should realize that all of the current measures are only barriers to overcome not something to thwart or stop an attacker.