Tragedy Again at School

High school sophomore Samuel Hengel, 15, died a needless and unfortunate death Tuesday, from his own hands. I’m sure the country is wondering why. It just doesn’t make sense.

Hengel held about two dozen of his classmates hostage at Marinette, Wis., High School on Monday night. Many hostages said the student didn’t mean any harm, nor did he seem to want to shoot anyone. Still, there is no explanation of why.

What causes such desperation that a student would hold a group of peers against their will?

“As far as what caused this, it seems to be a mystery,” said Police Chief Jeff Skorik. “We have not been able to identify anything that precipitated this incident.”

The kind of tragedy happens all too often in the K-12 setting. Only the week before Thanksgiving, Plano East Senior High School in Texas was alerted to a bombing threat. Plano police arrested Chase Commons, 17, for making a terroristic threat. History demands that law enforcement take threats and hostage situations seriously.

Security is one of the highest concerns among school administrators and staff. The fact that Hengel could enter his high school with a 9-mm semi-automatic and a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun is alarming. Hengel had more ammunition in his pockets and in a duffel bag found at the scene.

The school district recently spent a lot of money on classroom doors, to make them more secure, but doesn’t have metal detectors.

The tragedy will spill over into urban and rural America once again, begging the question of, “Are we secure enough at school.”

Our January issue of Security Products will have a special supplement dedicated to security on school campuses. I hope you will take the time to read the articles and evaluate better measures and responses to offer to campus clients. School is a place of learning and should never be the setting of tragedy.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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