The adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” rings true to this day. But what are we doing, now, to prevent school shootings to keep our children safe? How are we preventing someone from entering our school communities and endangering our students, our teachers and school faculty?
While arguments about controversial solutions continue and we wait on the slow processes of decision makers to improve school safety, let us realize that school administrators and school districts have many avenues to improve security and prevent intruders. Here are three ways schools can create a safer environment for students and staff.
1. Get a security assessment! Do you know where your vulnerabilities are? Where is the most secure area of your campus? Where is the least secure and most vulnerable entrance? Do you have an incident-specific contingency plan? If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you need to get the answer, and fast. Security consultants are experienced professionals trained to identify areas of vulnerabilities and can help you prevent tragic events like school shootings. Security consultants notice even the smallest of security breaches and propose a step by step solution. Ensure the security company is professional, courteous and has knowledgeable consultants.
2. Security Guard Services – armed or unarmed? Regardless of which option you need, the presence of a security guard deters criminal activity and provides a sense of security. Security guards can also do routine security maintenance checks. In California, a security guard alerted officials to a student planning a school shooting at El Camino High School. This security guard acted proactively and effectively prevented another school tragedy. Ensure the security guards you hire are experienced. Veterans of the U.S. military or law enforcement make some of the best security guards as they already have extensive training and hands on experience; they are prepared to engage with an intruder while keeping passersby safe. Ensure the security company hires only the highest caliber of guards, does background checks and can re-certify their guards. Yes, hiring an experienced security guard does cost more than a hiring a security guard with scant training and no experience. The lives saved is worth the extra cost.
3. Get families involved in mental health awareness. Seventy-eight percent of school shooters have some sort of mental health history. Not only should schools improve the ratio of mental health counselors to students, but something as seemingly simple as distributing letters of mental health awareness to families must be implemented. Many teenagers may not take mental health seriously or may not even realize they need help. A trusted adult such as a parent or teacher can watch for warning signs and actively encourage and support the student. School administrators can send letters reminding parents to talk to their child, checking for signs of bullying, lack of empathy or absence of close social circles. Signs of mental illness are not always obvious but school administrators and we, the community, can ensure we are doing our part in awareness and education.
In the end, we all have a part in keeping our communities safe for our children and school staff. While we wait on policies and governances, let’s realize that safety begins in our homes and local communities. Let’s work together to create a safer environment and protect our future.
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