It is a bittersweet silver lining in the dark cloud of a global pandemic to think no one is worried about armed attackers perpetrating school shootings while students everywhere are learning remotely from home instead of attending physical classes. Although school closures during the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic have given rise to a host of other challenges, there is also an opportunity to provide leadership and guide the conversation to how we could be bulletproofing schools in 2020.
School Security Planning: A Way Forward During the Pandemic
The lack of news about school shootings is a welcome relief from the constant anxiety students, teachers, and administrators have been feeling in the wake of tragic incidents such as those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While the United States Department of Justice notes school shooting incidents are rare in its School Safety: By the Numbers summary, managing school security has remained a priority concern of the education system and law enforcement. In this blog article, we’ll review some of the primary strategies proposed for bulletproofing schools—both figuratively and literally.
Hardening the School Environment
There are a variety of security measures schools can take to prevent or mitigate gun violence, including security surveillance cameras, locked doors, better control of building access, metal detectors, locker checks, more hallway supervision, and so on. There is disagreement, however, on the extent to which finances and resources spent on these measures have substantial impact on reducing the risk and occurrence of school shootings.
The Gun Control Strategy
After major school shootings, there is always a call from some for better or tighter gun control legislation. The general idea here is to make the kinds of weapons often used in school shootings less available generally or more specifically to people more likely to become an armed attacker. Proposals within this strategy include banning the manufacture or availability of “assault weapons,” banning high-capacity magazines of ammunition, universal background checks, red flag laws or gun violence restraining orders that allow for removal of a person’s firearms if they show signs of potentially becoming violent, and more. While many do support these approaches, just as many if not more push back against what they see as a slippery slope eroding their second amendment right to keep and bear arms.
More Armed Personnel in Schools
The vast majority of schools have declared themselves gun-free zones, and yet there are many who think allowing guns in schools when they’re in the right hands could help stop attacks when they occur. Some want armed security officers in schools and others think allowing properly trained teachers to have arms in school could work. For others, the idea that more guns in schools could be helpful seems counterintuitive and unproductive, whether in the hands of an employee or a security officer.
Training: Active Shooter Drills and Anti-Bullying Programs
Training students, faculty, and staff on what to do during active shooter incident seems like a no-brainer, and yet depending on how the drills are conducted, the training itself can cause trauma to participants. The more realistic these drills are, the more frightening they are for students. There is a sharp division between people who think it’s a good way for schools to be prepared and those who think it’s not only unnecessarily traumatizing, but could actually be arming potential internal attackers with all the knowledge they need about school procedures. It’s also worth noting that because many school shooters were the victims of relentless bullying, anti-bullying training and prevention programs also have a role to play.
Gun Violence Research
The “war on drugs” was an approach to battle the scourge of substance abuse through law enforcement stepping up arrests of abusers. This put a lot of people in jails and prisons but didn’t seem to make much of a dent in the addiction crisis. The rise of the opioid epidemic has caused many to think it’s better to treat the issue as a public health crisis than trying to arrest our way out of it. And now people are also framing gun violence as a public health problem. By doing this, the federal government could fund and conduct research into gun violence to really pinpoint causes and preventions with scientific evidence to create more effective policies.
Better Mental Health Services, Screenings, and Counseling
The individuals who perpetrate gun attacks in schools often show signs of potentially violent behavior leading up to an incident, which means better mental health services could play a role in preventing shootings. In addition to increasing the amount and quality of mental health services available through schools, students, teachers, and staff could be encouraged to tune in to the kinds of signs that should be reported and dealt with. There have been examples where this kind of programming has been successful in identifying high-risk cases and getting them the help they need.
Literally Bulletproofing Schools in 2020
One way to harden the school environment in a very unobtrusive way would be to utilize more bulletproofing materials and furniture throughout a school building and its rooms. This can include school desks, cafeteria tables, conference room tables, doors, door glass and other windows, and more. Creative Industries has been producing bulletproof materials and products for more than 30 years. We can create all kinds of protective items to custom specifications to harden the school environment. See our Bulletproof Furniture for Schools page as well as our recent blog articles, including Bullet Resistant Tables for Schools and Are Student Desks at Schools Bulletproof? If you’re interested in your school taking steps during the pandemic closure to increase safety through bulletproofing, please get in touch with us through the contact page of our website or call us directly at 800-776-2068. We’re here to support schools that want to plan for safer learning in 2020!