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Exposing School Security Risks and Closing the Gaps

By:  Michelle Cummings

Managing Director, Hedge Security Solutions

 

An educators goal is to provide a full and meaningful education to all students under their charge without the worry of outside influences disrupting the message.  Violent events such gun violence and mass shootings do more than just disrupt the learning process, they leave damaging scars on those involved.  Principals, Superintendents, and School Board members may feel that they could have done more and should have acted more quickly.  Teachers may feel distraught and helpless as the tragedy unfolded before them and they were unable to save their students.  Students, in the aftermath of the event, may feel that school is now an unsafe place and now suffer from post-traumatic stress.  All involved, to include first responders, religious leaders, parents, community members, in addition to those already mentioned, will all suffer from the tragedy and loss of the event.  The event will shake the community to its core and produce extreme emotions of sadness, anger, and rage.  The baseline goal of the educator is now broken because teachers see the empty seats of the children lost, children cry from the loss of their best friends, and schools lose some of their most talented people because they could not cope with the stress nor the loss of the event. 

There were 46 school shootings that occurred in 2022.  There have been 30 gun-related events or mass shootings that occurred at schools in 2023.  This includes the highly-publicized mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, TN.  Violent school events began to escalate in 2018 where school shootings jumped from an average of 11 per year to an astonishing 30 incidents.  These numbers dropped in 2020 when schools were closed during COVID but jumped up dramatically in 2021 and 2022.  Looking at the numbers for 2023, these numbers are continuing to climb and do not appear to be slowing.

Schools need to take a hard look at security.  An important consideration is that not all security enhancements are created equal and some enhancements need to be used in conjunction with one another.  One example may be installing a guard shack and having a security officer attend that guard shack yet that security officer is so far removed from the main building he or she would not be able to react quickly enough in the event of an emergency.  It would be better to add another security officer to do roving patrols around the school to check for locked doors and unusual behavior in students or guests.  This is because many school shooters end up being distraught or bullied students.  These students already have access to the school and are authorized to pass through the gate.  They would be inside your perimeter and committing the bad act before you had time to react.  Another example would be the installation of hi-tech access controls such as magnetic locks, card readers, or biometric locks without upgrading or enhancing glass strength.  What do I mean by this example?  Take a look at what happened at The Covenant School Shooting in Nashville.  When watching the camera footage, the shooter appears to hesitate at the doors, indicating locked doors; however, the shooter simply shoots out the glass and then walks in.  This event took just seconds.  This not only prevented the individuals inside to react, the shooter had unimpeded access upon entry because none of the interior doors were locked to prevent further access.  Finally, you can have the highest tech cameras in the world but if you do not monitor them in some way, they become useless in preventing a violent incident.  At a minimum, you need to have the person that provides access to the main building a monitor in order for that person to visual see who is approaching prior to allowing them access. 

We should not wait until these events occur to only express regret that we did not do enough.  We need to take security into our hands now and open our eyes to the reality of what dangers our current environment brings.