The Evolution of School Security

By Charles Schnabolk, P.E., PSP

Every time a school is attacked by some maniac intent on killing innocent children, the nation becomes outraged and people demand more security, stricter gun control on automatic weapons, and more government funds to add security devices and procedures to stop the horrific rampage and mass killings. Such an event took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. Twenty children, and six adults were killed before the shooter took his own life. That put it among the deadliest mass shootings in recent history worldwide.

The same outrage occurred after Columbine, the Amish school murders, and after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech massacres.

Each incident brings a wave of sometimes newly minted experts who offer up all types of remedial solutions. Some are ridiculous; most are simply ineffective.

I have been designing school security systems for some of the nation’s most troublesome school districts since 1978, and some of my recommendations have made a notable impact on lowering the rate of school vandalism, and stopping drug dealers and pedophiles from entering the school buildings. I have also helped schools develop training for staff so that they can be adept at handling emergency situations, but like the thousands of other consultants, I have never found a practical solution that can stop a deranged individual from entering a school and slaughtering students and killing himself.

Just as we can never stop terrorists from flying into high-rise buildings or prevent all bank robberies or keep out all undocumented immigrants, we cannot make schools 100 percent safe. As schools evaluate the need for added security after the Newtown incident, we have to keep that reality in mind.

But that doesn’t mean we should not try to make schools safer. Schools that think of security and reject it sometimes quote the statistic that the chance of one child being shot in a school is one in a million. Those that follow that dictum fail to recognize that the only statistic they should really be concerned with is that a child is one in a million.

While school security is an area where there are no simple solutions, a brief history of school security may place the situation that occurred at the Sandy Hook school in proper prospective. To ignore past history will only encourage school administrators to repeat the same mistakes all over again.



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