Are We Focusing Too Much on the Intruder Threat to School Security?
Studies have found that in more than 43% of K-12 campus shootings, the gunman was currently enrolled at the school.
In September, the Texas School Safety Center began conducting intruder safety audits of K-12 campuses around the state. Each audit takes an in-depth look at school safety, with inspectors checking exterior entry points. They also review how a school checks in visitors.
I applaud the state of Texas for requiring its schools to pay closer attention to access control and visitor management. Anyone who has been following Campus Safety knows that for years I’ve been pushing for campuses to do a better job of locking their doors and vetting their guests. I’d love it if every U.S. school would follow suit.
That said, my concern is the audits currently being done in Texas — as well as in the rest of America’s K-12 schools (no doubt prompted by May’s Uvalde’s mass school shooting tragedy) — might be too focused on the intruder threat at the expense of the threats posed by insiders.
We all need to remember that students, disgruntled employees, parents, and others on campus can and do act out more often than outsiders who usually aren’t on our radar. For example, let’s take school shootings. In more than 43% of the cases, the gunman was a current student at the school.
This sad statistic came to mind recently when I reviewed a superintendent’s plan for addressing active shooters on campus. Although the plan was excellent, it didn’t mention students, staff members, and parents as possible threats.
I’m also concerned that we are now too focused on locking doors to buildings. If this is all we are focused on, it could leave a campus vulnerable to shootings that happen outside. Studies of past incidents show that the most common location for school shootings is actually the campus parking lot (21.8%).
Additionally, we always need to remember that active shooter attacks, although way too common in our country, are still very rare occurrences. Suicides and other mental health issues, as well as sexual assault, bullying, gang violence, and hazing are much more likely to happen in our campus communities, as are medical emergencies, severe weather, non-custodial parent issues, and more.
Truth be told, many of the measures covered by Texas’ audits can address a multitude of security and safety issues, in addition to the active shooter threat. So, making sure doors to school buildings can lock and stay locked is definitely a wise move.
We all just need to remember to keep an open mind about all of our vulnerabilities and take the all-hazards approach to school emergency planning, response, mitigation, and recovery. That way we’ll be better prepared for whatever crisis may come next.
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