Calling the recent surge in school shootings an epidemic is, unfortunately, not an understatement. It would seem our schools are under violent attack and are no longer a safe place of learning for our children. The Columbine shooting was the first that left us glued to the TV in disbelief, but sadly we have had many more fatal shootings since then.
Even just since Sandy Hook in 2012, we have had at least 239 additional school shootings across the United States. Of those 438 people who have been shot, 138 were killed. We never know when it will happen again, but we have been forced to accept that it will.
What was once unheard of has become a fairly routine news story. We are inundated with threats of violence, real acts of violence — and we’re left wondering what to do about it.
How can we make our schools safer? The first thing we need to do is avoid stepping into a quicksand of fruitless arguments. Let’s explore common ground and keep angry debates and protests from allowing us to find reasonable solutions.
While there are no perfect solutions, here are five ideas on how we can make our schools a safer place — even if implementing them isn’t a 100% guarantee there won’t be a shooting at your child’s school.
1. Have Zero Tolerance for Threats
It’s too easy — and therefore too common — for kids to make threats against a school. It makes them feel powerful and helps them retaliate against a teacher or student who might have upset them. Something as simple as an Instagram post can shut a school down for the day.
We need to treat these threats seriously and punish those who make them to the fullest extent of the law. The administration should inform students of this stance at the beginning of the school year and remind often. Students should not receive breaks if they were “joking” or just “having a bad day.” They need to receive the same punishment as someone who made a legitimate threat, or they will only continue.
2. Implement Security Procedures
Students and staff need to practice lockdown procedures and go over what to do if there is an intruder or gunman on school grounds. Parents should check in with the office every time they need to visit the school, whether they’re dropping off lunch or bringing in forgotten musical instruments. The office or security team needs to know who is in the building at all times.
Students should also know the staff will routinely inspect their lockers and contact law enforcement if they find any illegal items.
3. Add Security Staff and Hardware
Schools may need to hire security personnel, too. The office staff has a lot to do and cannot adequately monitor the entire school. Even an additional four people would help keep the building, well, four times safer.
Doors to the school should lead into another set of doors that are locked during the day. Parents can be buzzed in through a secure door and enter the office only. The windows to these entrances and all classroom doors should be made of bullet-resistant glass, so an assailant cannot shoot them out and open them up when they’re locked.
Schools should also install cameras at all entrances and have security personnel routinely monitor them.
If you have metal detectors, use them. Just beware that they can cause backups of students entering the school and create problems as a result of crowding. Random wand-type metal detectors will give the same security presence, but won’t cause the congestion associated with metal detectors at the entrance.
4. Confront and Stop Bullying
Although there has been an increase in anti-bullying campaigns, bullying still occurs on a regular basis. Often, bullied children do not feel they have been listened to or protected, and they can seek revenge on the school in the future.
We can’t force everyone to be friends, but we must demand that students are civil to each other. It will prevent future violence and the continuation of the bullying cycle. Bullying is a common theme in the analysis of a school shooting.
5. Support Common Sense Gun Laws
Regardless of your passionate position on gun control, let’s agree that mentally ill people or people who have threatened gun violence should not be able to own guns. Follow the example of the Seattle Police Department who can legally take guns away from people under the Extreme Risk Protection Order.
When a person demonstrates they pose a significant danger to themselves or others, law enforcement or family members can petition to have their firearms taken away from them following the order. Had this been implemented in other cities, many shootings may have been preventable.
School is difficult enough for our children. They have to learn about challenging subjects, deal with social pressures and participate in extracurricular activities. They shouldn’t also have to worry about being victims of gun violence as they’re trying to learn.
At the same time, teachers should be able to focus on educating our kids — they shouldn’t also have to be trained assassins. Let’s make some smart changes to how we run our schools by identifying the potential risks based on our changing culture and ensuring we’re always ready for the unthinkable.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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