Just two weeks after the Parkland school shooting, The New York Times published an article profiling how the threat of school violence, specifically school shootings, has turned school security into a booming business. However, several school security industry members are quoted throughout the article stating there is very little guidance on which technologies and processes schools should implement to best help prevent a crisis or respond if one should occur.
Without this guidance, schools are spending money almost as a knee-jerk reaction and many companies see an opportunity for economic gain. For example, companies who specialize in the military or law enforcement sectors are entering the education market for the first time, and districts are getting pummeled with marketing pitches from companies selling metal detectors, door locking systems, mobile barricades, and more. Some schools and parents are even purchasing ballistic panels for students to place in their backpacks. And a district in Oklahoma is installing tornado shelters that double as a ballistic shelter equipped with video monitors, a battery backup, and a ventilation system in its schools. In this video, the superintendent even sat inside the shelter as it was shot at by automatic weapons to demonstrate its effectiveness.
There is definitely a need for physical security resources at schools such as metal detectors and security cameras, and, in the event of an emergency or crisis, door locking systems and digital floor plans and maps. But what can districts do to help PREVENT crises from happening in the first place and prepare themselves to respond should one occur? Below is a list of some prevention, preparedness, and response initiatives schools should consider implementing:
- Create an inclusive school culture that does not tolerate bullying or any form of violence.
- Encourage staff and students to immediately report ANY suspicious conversations or inappropriate behaviors.
- Implement easy-to-use school violence and bullying reporting systems, and repeatedly promote the systems to the entire school community on a regular basis across different channels (posters and stickers, social media, school website or newsletter, communication with parents, etc.).
- If a report is submitted, investigate it immediately and involve local law enforcement, if necessary.
- During the investigation, document EVERYTHING.
- Train educators and students what to do in the event of a crisis.
- Conduct regular lockdown drills and involve local law enforcement to ensure everyone practices what to do.
- Inspect buildings and physical security measures (alarm systems, door locks, security cameras, metal detectors, etc.) regularly to ensure they are functioning.
- Create a communications plan, including how to share information about the crisis with local authorities, parents and families, and the local media.
- Develop a reunification plan detailing where students will be relocated to after a crisis and how families can reconnect with their children.
- Create a plan for returning to school, including additional counseling support, increased security presence when staff and students return so they feel safe, provide an opportunity for staff and students to reflect on the incident and voice concerns, and more.
Even if your school was not directly affected by a crises or school violence, these situations can have an effect on your students as they may watch ongoing media coverage of the events. When there is a high-profile incident of school violence in the news, consider sending information to your staff about how to best answer students’ questions. We compiled a list of ways schools can help students cope with tragedies here, but here are a few more:
- Q&A – 10 Tips for Talking with Students about Tragedy: Scholastic shares 10 tips from expert Dr. Robin F. Goodman on how to address events and student concerns. Read more.
- Article – The Teacher’s Role When Tragedy Strikes: The President of the Child Mind Institute Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, published this article discussing what teachers can do to help students return to learning after a tragedy. Read more.
- Article – Resources for talking and teaching about the school shooting in Florida: The New York Times compiled ways teachers, administrators, and mental health professionals are helping children cope with the Parkland tragedy. Read more.