How Can We Make Schools Safer?
By: Tom Chatham
With the increase of school shootings the past few decades the safety of students has become a more difficult proposition. There are people on different sides of the issue arguing for their solution but few are actually sitting down to analyze the problem and put forth sensible solutions. No one solution will be best for all locations just like no one solution will work equally well for disaster preparedness in all locations. We need different approaches for different locations based on the threat posed.
One of the most needed changes to schools today is the reintroduction of moral standards to children to curb the hostile intents kids have for one another. You cannot eliminate these feelings completely but you can instill the fear of acting out on these feelings through moral standards and the knowledge there will be a price to pay for doing so.
Teaching kids not to kill one another is probably the simplest way to stop killings but there are those that have true mental problems that only therapy and proper medications will help. These individuals need to be identified and monitored to insure they do not become a threat. This can be done without violating their rights.
Some schools in crime ridden areas go to the extreme length of having metal detectors at the entrances. This has served some areas well but anyone determined to get weapons into the school could still do so if they wanted to bad enough. Simply breaking into the school after hours through a window and planting weapons inside for later retrieval is always possible. Only their willingness and imagination prevents it.
The first line of defense is to keep the hostile person out of the school to begin with. Having external doors that are secured during school hours is one way to minimize the access. External doors as well as exterior windows on the first floor that are bullet resistant will go a long way to making forced entry difficult.
Once a weapon or hostile individual is inside a school there need to be systems in place to deal with the threat. The most effective method is to have an armed security guard that can face the individuals and stop them with lethal force if necessary. This may be the best option for some areas but not necessarily all of them. Armed officers make sense where the threat is high but not all schools have a high threat level.
Inside the building, certain interior doors should be bullet resistant and have an internal bolt to lock the door preventing entry of even an armed person. Keeping a physical barrier between shooters and victims is essential to preventing casualties. If a shooter manages to breach a door those inside should be prepared to defend themselves. This is one thing children need to be taught. Never go down without a fight. This applies more to older children than to smaller children.
The most vulnerable time for a shooter is when they move through a doorway. They can not see what is on the other side of the wall and that is where resistance needs to come from. Being up close to a shooter leaves them little room to maneuver for a shot. When assaulted by several persons at once up close a shooter can be overwhelmed and brought under control. Using a simple weapon such as a piece of wood or pipe and striking them in the head as they move through the door can take them down long enough to get control of them.
There is much debate about arming teachers in schools. This may be the best option in some areas. The more friendly weapons you can bring to bear against an intruder, the greater your chances are of ending the event quickly. There are many that do not like this option due to their fear of guns in general.
One possible compromise to the arming of teachers could be to arm them with less than lethal weapons. Arming every teacher in certain schools with tasers and providing them proper instruction on their use can also provide a deterrent to hostile individuals. The type of tasers that many police departments use can take down an assailant from several feet away very effectively. This type of weapon would reduce the fear of accidental discharges in schools.
Using a mixture of the items listed can make schools safer and give children some piece of mind while they are in school. Every school is different as are the communities scattered across the nation. Only by analyzing the needs and fears of each school can we begin to secure these locations and end the threats posed by people who wish to do harm to others.