The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., intensified the national debate over how far schools should go to protect their students.
There has been no shortage of conflicting opinions about how to make schools safe – even without bringing armed teachers into the equation.
Some experts say greater emphasis is needed on preventing, rather than preparing, for shootings through mental wellness programs. Others have advocated response options that fall outside of the traditional lockdown, including tactics that involve swarming a gunman.
So, what should school owners and administrators give serious consideration to? If you haven’t already, here are four items that deserve your attention, especially if you’ve just opened a new school:
1. “Harden” your perimeter. Security alone isn’t the answer, and we know that the vast array of options can be confusing. However, putting up security cameras, door buzzers, gates, and other barricades or high-tech devices can definitely help. Of course, there are shortcomings to all of these, too.
Metal detectors are unlikely to stop a gunman, but they can be useful in case, for instance, your school is in a neighborhood with high crime or gang activity, where students may try to bring guns or knives into school to defend themselves.
Buzzers also are not enough, especially at arrival and dismissal times when scores of students may be milling around.
Still, taken together, these devices can help, especially cameras, which can be useful to police officers responding to the scene of a shooting.
As you weigh the options, we’d only advise not to react reflexively. Your investment in security should be with products that have proven they work.
2. Anonymous reporting systems – including those that are text-message based – can make it easier for parents and students to alert school officials to kids who seem disconnected or disturbed. If your school hasn’t adopted one of these systems yet, we think it’s a good idea to do so now.
The good news is that legislation introduced in Congress in early March would help create more of these anonymous reporting systems.
3. Along these lines, make sure that everyone in your front office is informed when a student has been suspended or expelled. A photo should be posted, and they should call 911 if the person appears. This simple step is one that is often overlooked, so make this a priority.
4. Assign teachers to join security guards in the lobbies or in hallways as a way of better detecting troubling behavior that may be brewing. Doors need to be manned by someone who knows the students and will recognize anyone who looks out of place. Teachers are trained to relate to students, so they make for good sentinels.
If you have questions about any of this and want to talk, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help!
Joaquin Escobar, an Insurance Advisor at CCIG, handles the risk management and insurance needs of commercial childcare and school accounts. Reach him at 720-212-2054 or JoaquinE@thinkccig.com.
Related: Arming teachers raises all kinds of insurance challenges.
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