Campus security assessments and well-trained School Resource Officers (SROs) are just some of the ways American schools can do a better job of protecting students, teachers and staff, claims Clint Henderson of 2MCCTV, a DFW-based security company. In his report Post-Sandy Hook School Security: What the Experts Are Saying, Henderson quotes 15 school security experts who comment on what they think needs to change in order to keep America’s school children safe. Their responses are brutally honest and at times, quite shocking.
Here’s the report:
Post-Sandy Hook School Security: What the Experts Are Saying
You Can’t Stop Crazy
As our society seemingly becomes more and more dangerous with each passing year, it begs the question of whether ensuring complete safety for a school is even possible. The majority of experts admit that completely, 100% safe schools are in fact not possible, or at the very least, are impractical. School principal and school security expert Casey King notes “unless a school is behind an electric security fence with bars over the windows and armed guards throughout, it will always be vulnerable.”
In fact, Dan Alvarez, who has more than 40 years of law enforcement and security experience, was one of the few experts who responded that a 100% safe school IS possible. He went on to describe such a school stating “there was no way to breach access into the campus without using explosives” and elaborated that this particular South Central Los Angeles school was designed to be a “safe haven…for the children in this lawless intercity community.” Presumably security measures of this multitude would be excessive for schools located in safer areas.
It appears that the key is finding a balance between creating schools that feel more like prisons than places of learning and allowing your school to be an easy target for violence. So, given that, as expert school safety consultant Bo Mitchell phrased it, “you can’t stop crazy,” what can a school do to make itself less vulnerable to attack? The answer comes from internationally recognized school security expert Mike Dorn, and it involves working to eliminate unintentionally unsafe behavior among school staff and establishing a “positive culture of school security.” Regarding where schools go wrong security-wise, Dorn stated:
“We have assisted with assessments for more than 5,000 public and non-public schools and for five state level school safety assessment projects. By far, the biggest gaps we see are in human behavior. While few schools have all of the security and emergency preparedness technology they could benefit from, most of the preventable deaths and serious injuries we work involved gaps in student supervision, people propping open doors, not wearing their staff identification cards, not properly screening visitors, [problems in] application of emergency procedures, bad security and emergency plan content, etc”
Dorn went on to emphasize that a school can have all of the industry’s best and most up-to-date security equipment, but when staff is not properly trained on how to use them, they are rendered much less useful. In running tests of such equipment, Dorn noted:
“We have consistently been able to beat any form of security technology (access control, visitor management, monitored security camera systems, metal detectors, security X ray equipment, etc.) when staff have not been trained and a positive culture of school security has not been established.”
Nearly all of the experts we interviewed agreed that proper training for teachers and staff regarding how to implement security strategies and how to react in an emergency was key to creating a safer school.
What Can Parents Do?
When asked what parents can do to improve their children’s safety, the most common response by an overwhelming margin was communication between parents, schools and students. Our experts urge parents to ask questions about what specifically is being done to decrease risk at their school. Sean Spellecy, expert school security consultant with 19 years of experience recommends that parents:
“Ask your school leadership what their 5 highest risks are, and what they are doing to mitigate each risk? If they don’t have an answer for you then you know immediately that your child’s school needs help enhancing its safety/security.”
School safety expert Bo Mitchell offers a call to action for parents, recommending that they “demand that their school/campus comply with the law. Get robust planning and training. Do it today.
Parents working collaboratively with school staff was a common theme among our expert responses. Parents are encouraged to become active participants in their school’s emergency planning and take specific actions to help improve the safety of their kids’ schools. Security consultant specializing in school safety Ed Clarke recommends, among other things, that parents “provide up-to-date emergency contact and student release information to schools,” as well as “be aware of key aspects of the school’s Emergency/Crisis Management Plan,” while school safety expert Mike Dorn mentions the importance of “get[ting] to know your child’s friends.”
Still, Dorn emphasizes that knee-jerk reactions to this tragedy at the expense of “the many things we have learned from school security incidents over the last hundred years” is a dangerous mistake for schools to make. Instead, he recommends that parents and schools implement what has been proven to work and reminds us:
“Focus on what injures and kills the most children rather than what gets the most media attention. We lose more kids at school to lightning strikes, bee stings [and] accidents than acts of violence by far. Violence has never been a leading cause of death at K12 schools in the US.”