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More Than Barriers Needed To Fortify Schools

Schools and law enforcement must work together.

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Kenneth S. Trump, no relation, is the president of National School Safety and Security Services. Here he offers common sense counsel on school safety post Uvalde.

Trump: The attack by a gunman upon students and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, sent shock waves throughout school communities across the nation.

Parents are asking whether their school officials have not only target-hardened their schools, but also if staff inside those schools are following the simplest of security protocols such as not propping open perimeter doors. Many parents are now uncertain as to whether the first police officers on the scene of an active school shooting will enter their schools to immediately neutralize the shooter.

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The attack at Columbine High School in Colorado more than two decades ago resulted in schools upgrading physical security such as access control, surveillance cameras, and communications equipment. They trained administrators, teachers, and support staff on prevention, intervention, response, and recovery best practices. School and safety officials partnered in implementing new lockdown, evacuation, shelter-in-place, and related emergency drills.

Police tactical responses also dramatically changed. The model leading up to Columbine called for the first officers on scene of an active shooter to set up a perimeter and wait for SWAT. This approach shifted to the first few officers, and over time to the first single officer, to immediately enter the school to neutralize the shooter.

But the 2018 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, put a focus on the Sheriff’s deputy, a School Resource Officer (SRO), who stood outside while the attack occurred inside the school. That officer was scorned by parents, the community, and others. Fast forward to four years later and the questions and scorn are even worse following reports of police waiting more than an hour to enter the classroom at Robb Elementary School.

Many of our nation’s law enforcement agencies have trained officers to the post-Columbine era standard and they will not hesitate to enter schools to protect children. Many schools make their buildings available after hours or on weekends for police to conduct tactical training in schools. Police are given blueprints and floor plans, keycards or keys, and remote access to school surveillance cameras to facilitate tactical access.

Elected officials have thrown millions of dollars at target hardening schools by focusing on security hardware and equipment. After every school shooting, we hear calls for metal detectors and even more security equipment. Security product and hardware vendors have overwhelmed school leaders with endless sales pitches and claims that their items will make schools safer.

There is a role for security hardware and products. However, these items are only as strong as the weakest human link behind them. We saw that in Uvalde when the gunman entered the school through a door left open by a teacher — a constant problem seen in schools for decades.

Oftentimes a skewed focus on security hardware is little more than “security theater”: Creating a feeling of improved security by providing visible, tangible things to point fingers at to make parents feel their children’s schools are safer. Meanwhile, schools increasingly fail to put more fundamental, proven best practices in place to address the human factors behind those fortified doors.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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Sara
Sara
1 month ago

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Last edited 1 month ago by Sara
Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

School Security ideas:
o Armed staffers
o Roving security
o Man Trap Zones
o Safe room zones
o Sensors
o One way entry
o One way vendor entry
o Panic buttons