The Biggest Problem with Current School Safety Solutions

When we look back at the three deadliest school shootings of 2018, one similarity they all share is obvious: none of the school safety solutions that the districts had in place at the time did what they were supposed to do. These shootings occurred in Marshall County, Kentucky, where there were two deaths (and an additional 14 injuries); in Santa Fe, Texas, where ten people died (with 12 more injured); and in Parkland, Florida, where there were 17 deaths (with an additional 17 people injured).

All three schools had security protocols at the time of the shootings. All had surveillance cameras on campus. All had access control systems, and each had a school resource officer or other trained security staff member on their grounds. And yet all were scenes of tremendous bloodshed.

One thing is clear: all three school security solutions failed to protect the students who’d entrusted their lives to them.

And yet, in the wake of these tragedies, all three school districts have promised to strengthen their defenses by doing more of the same things that didn’t work before.

Santa Fe High School has hired additional resource officers, outfitted the school’s front vestibule with bulletproof glass, and installed metal detectors and automatic electronic door locks at entrances. Had these extra precautions been in place at the time of the shooting, the perpetrator, a current student, would still have been allowed to enter the school.

Marshall County High School has banned backpacks in its classrooms, installed metal detectors, and hired four additional school resource officers to patrol its halls.

And, after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has increased the amount of fencing on its campuses, the number of video cameras in its security system, and the number of armed guards on school grounds. Even though an armed officer present at the time of the shooting failed to confront the perpetrator.

It’s Time to Change How We Think About School Safety Solutions

The biggest problem with current school safety solutions is simple. They don’t work.

What’s needed instead is a shift in mindset.

When we think about securing our school buildings, we often model our solutions on protocols developed by the federal government. When adhered to strictly and diligently, these protocols can be incredibly effective.

But school buildings don’t operate the way government offices do. The same systems designed to keep an intruder out of a courthouse won’t work to exclude an angry student from a classroom. And more than 86% of school shooters are students at the school where the violence takes place.

Access Control Systems Aren’t Keeping the Threat Out

Fundamentally, access control systems cannot solve this problem because the threat is already inside. This isn’t how we’d like to think about the environment where our children spend the majority of their days. We’d rather imagine that we can keep the dangers out.

By nature and by design, school communities are their strongest and most vibrant when buildings can be accessed at all hours of the day and night. From early morning swim practice to evening choir rehearsal, and from weekend football games to robotics tournaments, students benefit both academically and socially from participating in extracurricular activities.

Maintaining strict access control policies for all doors at all hours is neither cost-effective nor practical. And adopting a “lockdown” mentality sets kids on the wrong emotional path.

A New Model for Notification & Response

To create real change, we need to adopt a decentralized model for notification and response—one that operates at the classroom level rather than for entire buildings and campuses.

It’s vital that we empower teachers to take action, creating systems that will speed the process of locking down individual classrooms. No active shooter has ever breached a locked interior door, so giving teachers the tools they need to secure their classrooms more quickly and dynamically can save lives.

It’s also essential that we improve teachers’ ability to notify law enforcement officials and first responders quickly and accurately. Just as today’s fire alarm systems automatically inform firefighters about the exact location of the alert, we need systems that will instantly inform responding officers of the shooter’s whereabouts.

In all three of the shootings mentioned above, miscommunication or incorrect dispatch information slowed response times, costing law enforcement officers vital minutes that, in a crisis situation, can make the difference between life and death.

To learn more about how the SafeDefend System’s instant law enforcement alerting feature meets this need, and how it works to protect students and school communities throughout the U.S., contact us today.

Do Armed Guards Make Kids Feel Safer in Schools?

In response to several school shootings there has been a large push to allow armed personnel or to add school resource officers on campus.  This is a popular approach that has gained traction over the last few years.  There can be a financial cost for additional personnel, training and potential liability.  Outside of these factors there are several important pieces of information that have been revealed within recent studies that should also be understood.

While the perception of safety from staff and parents to having more guns in school is generally higher the students don’t normally feel safer.  Students tend to see uniformed personnel as policing them not protecting them.  In schools that have implemented SRO programs the likelihood of police involvement in non-violent incidents has gone up.  An officer in the school is more likely to intervene in an event that would previously be handled by the administrative staff alone.  There has also been an increase in other uses of force from empty hand control techniques, deployment of intermediate weapons and arrests.  Finally, as the number of guns has increased our students are more likely to be involved in an accidental weapons incident than a real shooting.

It is also often stated that an armed personnel are a deterrent to school shootings.  There have been several recent instances of intruders attacking schools with armed guards.  Marshall County, KY, Parkland, FL & Sante Fe, TX all had armed campus officers at the time of the shooting.  Officers are usually not in the right place at the time of the shooting because the perpetrator plans around them.  Unfortunately, the hardest part for schools is getting the armed responders to the right place in the building.  This has been an obstacle that schools overlook when implementing policy changes.  Notification systems are a simple solution to resolve this breakdown in communication.

The perception of safety does not always correlate into a more secure campus environment.  School administrators should be cautious about measures that can severely impact the profile of security in school without adding a substantial benefit.  The best course of action in a crisis is getting the trained professionals to the exact location of the crisis and notifying staff to initiate the emergency action plan.  Until this can be accomplished the other issues ought to be considered secondary solutions.