schools security is no longer just an overhead expense but also a (potential) marketing plus. Having good security in place at a school adds both a comfort level for parents, teachers and students but can also lend prestige and value to the school brand.
We are all and have always been concerned for children’s safety. But the uptick in incidents at schools and the immediacy and drama of media coverage of such events, has made safety an even more emotional issue. The times in which we live drive new requirements. And this begets the question: so, when is a school secure? Friends tell me that their impression of their school’s security officer is that he could not be of much help in a dire situation. The guard is amicable, knows everyone’s name but would he be able to effectively keep the bad guys out? Unclear.
It seems that the increased desire for good security spans political and cultural divides. Conservatives in Texas and liberals in Santa Monica all agree that something new is needed. The conflict comes when a school administrator wants an open campus and to maintain what they see as a welcoming image. They are afraid of guns in general, regardless of who has the gun. Just last week, an 8th grader arrived at her (public) school wearing an NRA T-shirt (see picture above). She was asked to change her shirt because it violated the school’s dress code that “forbids offensive, violent, or divisive clothing.” The school later rescinded and gave the student an apology. Also in the news, a police officer dropped off his daughter at her elementary school wearing his uniform and gun. He was asked by the principal to never show up on campus in his uniform and gun, as other parents were upset seeing an armed man on campus and were likewise afraid he would scare the other children. That school changed its mind and instead invited him to conduct a special assembly talking about what police officers do for the community. The point is, folks are confused.
There is a struggle of conscience between what we would like and what I believe we need. I see a qualified, armed security guard as fulfilling a role similar to that of an air marshal who performs only when and if the security system fails. If the school is breached, at least then they have an adequate response capability.
Meanwhile, teachers are feeling an additional pressure to secure their students and classrooms, and to be ready to respond to threats if not aid in preventing them. This in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Yet their credentials are in education, not in security. Teachers and administrators have vital roles to play in security, of course. What’s more, who better knows their school environment than the people working there? What’s missing from the equation is perhaps a more finely tuned awareness, and an ability for all campus personnel to look at their school’s protected environment first and foremost from the adversary’s point of view.
Indeed, I think the solution lies in training guards and all staff, tweaking security procedures to be threat-oriented and making sure that physical and technological security features match a give location’s security requirements. It might not happen over night, but by making these changes, we can at least be shifting in the right direction.