School Security, Hardening Schools, And School Threats

May 29, 2018

School Security, Hardening Schools, And School Threats

by Ian D Scofield

Since 2018 began we have had 23 school shootings in the US according to CNN and they are making the news every day, even after they have happened. There have been more school shootings then there have been weeks in this year. I know we have already talked about school shootings but as the topic keeps circulating through the news I feel that it needs to be addressed again.

A 360 Degree Approach

Before we dive into some of the things that we can do to further protect our schools, it is important that we understand the approach we need to take. School shootings happen for a variety of reasons and addressing each one of these reasons is important. That is why we need to establish a 360-degree approach to stopping school shootings.

The same kind of approach we take to protecting ourselves in the field.

School shootings are obviously part of law enforcement’s jurisdiction and taking an active role in preventing them can decrease the chances that they will happen. Law enforcement has a level of expertise that can be used to consult with schools to prevent shootings. You can also create other programs that can help reduce the chances of a school shooting.

Analyze Past School Shootings

Almost all of us have heard that we need to learn from our past and that is true, even in the context of school shootings. To fully understand how we need to protect our schools we need to look at our tragic history of the shootings. There are questions that we need to ask ourselves:

  • What happened?
  • How did it happen?
  • What protections worked?
  • What protections didn’t work?
  • Is there anything that could have been done to stop it?
  • Who stopped the shooting?

All of these questions will help you when looking at your own schools and determining how best to protect them.

Community Policing

Community policing plays a major role in modern law enforcement. A lot of focus on this is local events, getting out of the car, and getting to know the community. This is extremely helpful and works to develop a relationship with the areas that you patrol. Community policing can help create positive relationships in the community. It can also help to create positive role models in a kid’s life.

This chance to change a kid’s life and to give them something to look up to could be what they are looking for to make a difference.

Increasing School Patrols

Most schools are a fairly soft target just because of their lack of guardians. Even schools with SROs only have one or two officers on campus. There is no major police presence. Increasing the number of officers that a school sees can help to create a harder target and deter threats.

You don’t have to go into classrooms but walking the halls occasionally or showing up during lunches can help to show people that you are there. A guardian that is never seen is one that isn’t likely to deter a threat. Just respond to it.

Hardening Schools

There has been a lot of talk about hardening schools in the news. Hardening schools means that security is being tightened. Locks are being installed, some schools have gotten metal detectors, and more and more schools are getting dedicated school resource officers.

Trump has been a big proponent of hardening schools and has called to constantly increase the security of our schools. Critics have said that we have increased the security but it hasn’t done anything to stop the numerous school shootings that have happened this year.

Hardening schools isn’t a guarantee that we will eliminate all school violence or threats but it is a step we need to take in our 360-degree approach. Think about it this way, many areas in the United States used to be able to leave their front door unlocked but now we have to lock our door no matter where we are. If our home security has needed to increase, shouldn’t our school security increase too?

Law enforcement officers are great consultants to bring in when a school needs to be hardened. You are the ones that will have to clear and resolve the threat after all. You also have the training for countering such a threat. Working with your local school or school district to come up with new security measure could help your schools to be even safer.

As you hear about new technology that comes out, make sure to suggest it to the schools in your area. There is constantly new security devices coming out, such as ways to barricade doors during active shooter situations or higher quality security cameras.

Gun Education

Gun education is one of the places that law enforcement can play the biggest role in ending school shootings. Holding local gun education classes allows you to help educate the public on firearm safety and the proper storage of such weapons. A surprising number of people do not have proper firearm storage in their home and their kids can easily gain access to their weapons.

If your agency cannot provide that training, partnering with the NRA or a local gun range is another option.

Increase Mental Health Resources

One area that is extremely lacking in modern society is the number of mental health resources. With the help of more trained professionals, we could better help our kids who are feeling bullied, overwhelmed, or otherwise slighted. School counselors are outnumbered by their students and have huge caseloads. I know this portion of prevention is less relevant to some agencies but it is becoming more relevant with the increasing number of mental health officers/mental health professionals being employed by police agencies.

Arming Teachers

The idea of arming teachers has made its way into the news time and time again. I am somewhat hesitant to support this idea in its current state. Most teachers have no firearm experience. In order for arming teachers to be practical, they would have to receive firearms training similar to that of a law enforcement officer.

Shooting in all scenarios, weapon safety, weapon retention, and much more would all have to be taught to the teachers who opted to be armed responders. Then there is the question of who pays for this training. Providing the training should be something law enforcement officers or trainers do. That way they get the most relevant training possible.

You would also have to find a way to identify armed teachers during an active shooter response. The last thing you would want is for a police officer to shoot a teacher because they were ending the threat.

Treat All Threats As Real Threats

This one should already be obvious but it needs to be mentioned anyways. Any and all threats to a school should be taken seriously. If there is a report made to a school in your jurisdiction, you need to act on it as if it were a real threat.

Investigate the individuals involved and try to come up with a solution that will benefit all parties. Work with schools to make sure that students who report potential threats know that they won’t be ratting someone out or something similar. Let them know the importance of coming forward.

Before a threat or a report even comes in, you should come up with a plan to handle it when one does arise. That means talking to the school to ensure that every incident is reported and they are behind the plan too. Working as a team will help to reduce the chances that something falls through the gaps and will help to develop a solid policy.

I think it is important to note that I am not a professional in school shootings and all of this comes from research, physical security experience, and my criminal justice education.

Completely stopping the chance of a school shooting would be extremely difficult, if impossible. That doesn’t mean that we should try. Take this article to mind and try to come up with a plan to handle such situations. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive. And remember, stay safe out there.


About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.


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