school violence is escalating but preventable

Xray May Alert Officials Before Tragedy Strikes

School violence is escalating but preventable

After the tragedies at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, a growing emphasis on education security has emerged as schools face the reality of this terrorist threat on the homefront. In the 1999 Columbine shooting, high school students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris brought firearms, knives and explosives on campus, injuring 21 and killing 15, including themselves. More startling, they also planted a cafeteria explosive; had it detonated, it would have killed an estimated 500 students.

More recently, in 2007, Seung-Hui Cho of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University entered school buildings carrying two handguns, wounding 17 and killing 32 before committing suicide. Known as the “Virginia Tech Massacre,” this incident marks the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.

Today, the threat of violence is not shrinking. In the 2005-2006 school year, 38 percent of public schools reported at least one incident of violence. In the 2009-2010 school year, roughly 74 percent of public schools reported such incidents of violence. In 2012 alone, three students were killed in a Feb. 27 shooting at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio, and seven students and staff were killed in an April 2 shooting at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif.

As the threat of violence escalates in U.S. schools, the problem of school violence has become undeniable. The next question is if it’s preventable.

The answer is yes. Checkpoint security at school entry points offers a highly effective preventative measure that enables not only the detection of firearms, but also knives, explosives, illegal drugs and other contraband.

Walkthrough metal detectors check for hidden body weapons while X-ray inspection systems scan incoming backpacks, laptop bags, purses and personal belongings to ensure schools have control over what enters campus. On a given day, one in four Americans are within a school building, an estimated 77 million. A growing number of schools are realizing it is simply not worth the risk to go without X-ray security measures.

Astrophysics Inc., an X-ray provider for numerous public schools, is experienced in school security. Headquartered with a factory just 25 miles east of Los Angeles. Astrophysics manufactures all systems in the U.S.A. for the best in quality, reliability and performance.

Schools typically install the XIS-5335S and XIS-6040M because they are compact and require limited operational space while also providing large enough tunnel sizes to effectively scan. The XIS- 5335S is the smallest system available and fits in confined spaces, while the XIS-6040M is highly mobile, featuring pneumatic wheels and stainless steel handle bars for maneuverability through doors and hallways for fast relocation. Both the XIS-5335S and XIS-6040M are cost-effective, high-value systems that ensure the safety of our schools.

In 2009, a higher percentage of students ages 12-18 reported that they were more afraid of attack or harm at school than away from school. Providing an X-ray system can change a student’s perception of school safety and foster academic success. Students must feel safe within the necessary academic foundation for a good education and a better future—a safe learning environment. Students are not the only ones who recognize school safety is a priority. In 2005, researchers at Xavier University of Louisiana surveyed principals from more than 1,500 districts. One principal in the study commented, “This school is wide open to acts of terrorism. We have an open campus where almost every room can be accessed for periods of time throughout the day.

“If it were the intention of any person to cause harm or damage to persons or property, he or she would have a clear advantage.”

The Xavier study results revealed 64 percent of urban, 54 percent of suburban and 43 percent of rural-area principals reported violence had increased in their schools in the past 5 years. In fact, each month approximately 40,000 students and 8,000 teachers are physically attacked. Violence has transcended location.

Beyond the threat of violence, students also are at risk from exposure to drugs. In 2009, about 25 percent of students reported drugs were offered, sold or given to them at school. In addition to detecting firearms and explosives, X-ray systems can detect narcotics. Investing in an X-ray system not only secures students from the threat of violence but also from the existence of drugs on campus.

Astrophysics offers an exclusive feature in its Screener Assist, which is a programmable detection tool that enables operators to target specific threats. Operators simply input the pre-set atomic range of the threat object and Astrophysics software will automatically analyze each screened image and insert a red ellipse around that object. Up to four atomic range targets may be programmed. Screener Assist is a powerful tool that enables operators to automatically detect threats so screening is quick and effective.

Ultimately, the way we think about school safety must change. If parents, communities, school boards and administrators fail to acknowledge the threat of violence in our schools and do not fund the necessary preventative measures to secure our schools, we are promoting violence and hindering our students’ potential. Education starts with school, and school should start with safety.

This article originally appeared in the Security Products Magazine - July 2012 issue of Security Today.

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