Schools Must Be Vigilant in April

Schools Must Be Vigilant in April

If statistics mean anything, or if past actions are relevant to today’s security on campuses, April has been noted as one of the deadliest months for massacres and homegrown terrorism in the United States.

We’ve seen it all before and likely to never be forgotten.

  • Virginia Tech, 33 deaths and 23 injured (April 16, 2007).
  • Columbine High School, 15 deaths and 21 injured (April 20, 1999).
  • Oikos University, 7 deaths and 3 injured (April 2, 2012).

We must also include the tragic events, also in April:

  • Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing, 149 deaths and 680 injured (April 19, 1995).
  • Waco siege, 78 deaths (April 19, 1993).

The fear of a copycat is always a grave concern, and when it comes to publicizing mass shootings or spree violence, copycat behavior is top of mind. Law enforcement must keep in mind there are those who are mentally ill, violent or even a suicidal teenager and find it a useful solution to their own problems. Worse of all, something this selfish might be conducted on an even grander scale.

If a cover on a national magazine draws interest from a teenager, the thought is that if he or she does something similar, or greater, they see themselves as immortal or the new measuring stick for future incidents.

School administrators, public officials and the public need to be extra vigilant during April, attacks on campuses have garnered the most attention, so school staff, public enforcement and the public must be ready to protect people in virtually every part of society.

A gunman who killed two people at a Maryland mall in early March was believed to have a fixation with the Columbine shooting. He even dressed like one of the shooters and timed his attack to occur about the same time as the shooting in Columbine.

Social media—Facebook, Twitter and blog sites—are full of posts reminding the more impressionable among us of the planning these young men put into their deeds.

It’s become virtually impossible to ratchet down the sensationalism, the horror and the tragedy of these events. Our society will be living with the Murrah Federal Building, Columbine and Virginia Tech as long as there are people alive to remember them.

  • All schools should have emergency/crisis plans and lockdown procedures in place, train staff, hold safety/security drills with emergency responders, and practice responses to different emergency situations, such as an active shooter on campus.
  • All schools should have an assigned police officer. If not, a patrol plan that ensures a response within minutes to any and all types of school emergencies needs to be developed. If police are not available to be on site, off-duty police officers or unarmed contracted security officers should be considered.
  • Work with a school security expert, in conjunction with administrators and local law enforcement, to complete a thorough risk assessment of all schools and campuses. The results of these assessments will be the initial phase to develop a course of action and a plan to secure each school.
  • All schools, especially elementary schools, should be secured at all times. The main campus entrance should be controlled using security window and door screens and electronic access through a video intercom system. Allow access only to those who belong on campus – students, teachers, staff, parents, volunteers and contractors while keeping out the unwanted visitors: sexual predators, kidnappers, thieves and others. All entry, exit, and classroom doors should be locked throughout the day.
  • Once a visitor is approved to enter the building, he or she must immediately check in at the office. Before a temporary badge is printed for the person to wear at all times while on campus, he or she must show government-issued identification for screening purposes. There are visitor management systems that tie directly into FBI, state, and local law enforcement databases to check for criminals and registered sex offenders. It is also easy to program local exclusion alerts, such as fired employees and suspended/expelled students. Temporary restraining orders can be included to help prevent a non- custodial parent from removing a child from the campus.
  • Frequently test your communication/fire systems, PA system, phones, radios, duress buttons, fire alarms and other devices. Cameras in and around schools have proven to be a strong deterrent and very effective in helping to ensure policies and procedures are being followed, as well as in assessing incidents. They also provide a critical live insight for first responders during an emergency situation.

This April, let’s dedicate ourselves to ending the senseless violence that has plagued the month of April.

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