The Columbine school shooting in 1999 changed the way schools secure their students and teachers. It was also one of the first high-profile, televised school shootings in history.
Sadly, school shootings didn't end with Columbine. They keep happening with an alarming frequency and communities are now more concerned with school security than ever.
Do you know if your school or children are prepared for a crisis?
Keep reading this article to find out what the data is currently saying about school safety. We'll also discuss the pros and cons of hiring a security guard. Other topics include what training should be available in schools and new technology that helps make everyone safer.
The National Center for Education Statistics compiles data on crime and safety in schools. They release the data each year to help policymakers and school leaders deal with student safety.
According to the 2020 report, a total of 42 school-associated violent deaths occurred between 2016 and 2017. This number included students, staff, and non-students nearby.
The amount of school shootings is higher in the report. Over the 2018-2019 school year, there were 66 school shootings with casualties at public and private schools. More specifically, there were 29 school shootings with deaths and 37 with injuries.
Over the last 20 years after Columbine, schools have been enhancing security measures.
The NCES School Survey on Crime and Safety found that 95% of public schools now control access into the building. Many of them also use school security cameras, ID badges, metal detectors, and school uniforms.
In many cases, schools are now bringing in local police or sheriff's deputies to serve as school resource officers. They work full-time at a school to protect the students from crime or violence, but they also conduct community outreach for at-risk youth.
One challenge with school resource officers is that it's expensive for schools to maintain these contracts. Officers also report to both a school principal and police supervisor. There is a potential for miscommunication.
Some schools are now hiring professional security guards. They're more affordable and will report directly to the school.
Opponents point out that security guards are not as well trained or experienced as police officers. They're also concerned about whether the presence of guns makes a situation worse. Arming security guards has not been proven to deter crime.
From an operations perspective, schools with armed security guards have to worry more about the insurance involved in the use of a firearm. It could be very risky to have armed guards in school versus a trained police officer.
Training and drills are the best way to deal with violent situations at schools. What lessons were learned from the Sandy Hook shooting?
Educators who were involved in that tragic day said that communication was the foundation for everything. They added that schools need actionable plans, be prepared to deal with any situation, and that counseling needs to be provided as soon as possible to deal with the trauma.
The possibility of a school shooting or violence is a reality that everyone needs to deal with. Schools are now periodically holding safety drills. Like a fire drill, these mock drills will simulate a situation where an unauthorized person has entered the school or there is a weapon on campus.
A system of lockdowns has been developed where students are informed of code reds or code yellows. When they hear one of these things announced they have to spring into action.
Here are some best practices for lockdowns:
More than 4.1 million students experienced a lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year. While it's now common, the drill itself can have negative effects on a student's mental health. Teachers and parents should work together to help students process any trauma from simulations.
School districts are also spending millions of dollars on advanced security systems. The price of camera equipment is falling so it's cheaper for schools to buy more.
They are now investing in video surveillance cameras, IP cameras, video analytics software, and other similar devices. Leon County Schools in Florida, for example, now has over 2,600 cameras.
In a broader perspective, the cameras help keep schools safe by monitoring student behavior. They will be able to see if students are carrying suspicious bags or what appears to be weapons around school. It can also monitor whether anyone from the community tries to get inside.
Cameras also help with day-to-day discipline. Students who are accused of anything from skipping class to vandalism can now be picked up on video. Administrators can use the video when contacting their parents or law enforcement.
All of this new surveillance also helps protect school property over weekends or holidays. The buildings are empty and therefore a target for theft or vandalism.
School door security can also be enhanced by using new devices allowing teachers to better barricade the classroom entrance. Digital panic buttons can also be installed in key locations to notify administrators or police of a dangerous situation.
Are you a school administrator, teacher, or parent worried about school security? Have a conversation with your child and local school to make sure everything is being done to keep students safe.
Premier Wireless is a technology company providing campus communication, digital inclusion, and security solutions for schools. With over one million devices sold, some of our recent developments include Premier's Advanced Hotspot, RhinoWare Smart Door Barricade, and ConnectED Bus.
Start browsing our products online to find out what can help make your local school safer. We also develop technology solutions for the healthcare, government, hospitality, and enterprise sectors.