On March 27, Notre Dame High School in Riverside went into lockdown after a teacher received a threatening text message indicating that an attacker was on campus and planning to shoot the teacher.
This latest threat of violence and other recent school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sparks Middle School, Arapaho High School, and Roswell Middle School remind us once again that school districts must take immediate steps to make our schools safer.
A good start would be a reassessment of current security measures and emergency response plans at each school site. District administrators, teachers, police, support personnel, parents, and students should be invited to participate in a comprehensive review to identify and implement needed safety upgrades.
Adding an armed police officer at each school site would be an effective strategy, but the cost is considerable. The average cop makes $55,000 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics) and with 98,817 K-12 schools that carries a price tag of $5.4 billion per year.
Others suggest arming all teachers. This would be an unwise move for several reasons, but training a small number of teachers, giving them extensive background and psychological checks, putting them through certified gun training, and allowing them to carry concealed weapons could be an effective deterrent against campus attackers.
Another strategy would be to train our teachers and students how to react to a potential attacker situation. Current “lockdown” procedures require that students and teachers conceal themselves in a locked, darkened, and safe corner of the classroom.
Coupled with this approach should be a plan to teach teachers and students the necessary fighting skills to defend themselves either individually or collectively against armed aggression. Our children must not assume the role of victim and remain passive and defenseless under armed attack – fighting back quickly and competently may be their only chance to
Making it much more difficult for strangers to easily walk on campus without being noticed or causing anyone to be concerned is a simple measure that could tighten up campus security.
High fencing with entrances secured and monitored by school staff at all times to identify who is entering campus and why can be strong deterrents to crime. Proactive school districts conduct mock mass shooting drills at school sites involving school staff and local police agencies.
Realistic, joint training exercises offer police valuable training in the target environment, security and communication issues are identified and corrected, and staff and students become familiar with their respective responsibilities.
Finally, we need school personnel to be ever vigilant and know their student populations well. Sufficient staff should be outside offices and classrooms before and after school, and during passing and lunch periods.
More school counselors specifically trained to identify and assess students who may harm themselves or others along with affordable mental health services should be district priorities.
Unfortunately, until our nation addresses the growing culture of gun violence, the gratuitous violence in movies, video games and the media, and other socio-economic factors that contribute to crime, mass shootings in our schools and other public arenas will
In the interim, a collaborative effort involving law enforcement, mental health agencies, and school districts to make our schools safer and to identify and treat those who pose a risk to our schools and community should be immediately undertaken.