The solution to school security is not more of the same
With the anniversary of the Parkland shooting there have been a lot of articles about the changes over the last year. The interesting observation is that nothing has changed but rather a double down on more of the same. The response to these events usually ends with the same options being put out as enhancements. These options portray the impression to the public that our schools are safer without resulting in improvements that address the threat from an active shooter.
A recent Wall Street Journal article on the Parkland anniversary mentioned several expenditures over the last year. The school added fencing to several schools. The 45 acre Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus was fenced in at the time of the shooting. Upgrades and additions to the security system were purchased. The school has a robust camera system and the shooter’s every movement is captured on video. A recommendation was made to have more armed personnel at all Florida schools. One district hired combat veterans to patrol the grounds with rifles. We forget that there was an armed officer on the grounds that was at the scene in roughly 1 minute 45 seconds but failed to confront the shooter. The other armed responders were given confusing information and didn’t make entry until 11 minutes into the incident which was long after the shooter fled. So the solution is to continue doing what we have been doing for years hoping for fewer casualties.
A true solution comes from looking at what has happened in the past and figuring out what will make a difference. Not hypothetical solutions but thwarted attacks or attacks where the shooter was interrupted. The 2017-2018 school year was the worst year for the number of school shootings. Outside of the three major shootings there were others with minimal casualties. While the intent of the shooter appeared to be a mass casualty incident the impact was minimized by two things. Notification to the buildings occupants to lockdown saved countless lives. Actions by teachers to thwart or stop the attack was just as impactful. If the new strategies for security don’t improve notification or empower teachers then your readiness for a hostile intruder or no better off with a hardened building.
We have had the same approach to school shootings since the 1980s when we started some of the current measures. There have been improvements to the technology for locked doors and surveillance. These have never stopped an active shooter, they were not effective in Parkland, attempting to address a threat with these improvements will have similar ineffective results. The SafeDefend system was designed to solve the notification process to building occupants and police while empowering staff to protect students until help arrives.