Hopefully you are one of the millions of Americans who are tired of hearing about school shootings. We can all see that the current approach to dealing with this epidemic is not working and it is not going to get any better if we continue with the “business as usual” mentality when we talk about school security. We must change our mindset to today’s school environment where social media drives the day-to-day activities of our children.
Although school shootings have been around for decades, they are more widespread and increasing at an enormous pace since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. There are still many people who have the mindset that we can still enjoy the same school security environment and posture prior to that time. Frankly, returning to that period of time is impossible and we must take deliberate and aggressive steps to increase the safety of our children at school. They should be allowed to learn in a safe and secure environment and we must provide the funds and resources to improve school security.
The three-step Deter, Detect and Detain process is an effective and efficient way to address this problem.
Step 1: Deterring
In deterring, we must first hire an external security expert to conduct a risk and vulnerability assessment to identify security weaknesses and then apply the appropriate resources and processes to mitigate the identified weaknesses. Based on today’s environment, I believe these resources and processes should replicate security measures we currently use now in securing our key Federal, state and local buildings and places. For example, proactive screening and inspections of bags and children using metal detectors upon arriving at school, on school grounds and before getting on the bus, and random daily searches of lockers and cars if applicable.
Step 2: Detecting
Detecting encompasses proactive fact-finding based on integrated security systems and procedures implemented as well as better educating our children to identify and report suspicious activities and incidents, and better screening of our teachers and students to name a few. This should be a continuous process conducted during school and non-school hours.
Step 3: Detaining
Detaining a potential school shooter once detected and verified by security personnel must be done immediately in coordination with all appropriate law enforcement agencies. Ideally, we want the individual(s) detained before arrival on school grounds.
In order to ensure a safe and secure school environment for our children, we must dedicate adequate funds and resources. This would allow school officials to contract a security company with the expertise and resources to be the first-line of security at a school or in a school district. There are already numerous security companies providing security services and support to Federal, State and local agencies. Why not to our schools and/or school districts? The school shooting epidemic will continue to increase in occurrences if we do not get out in front of it. It is time to change our mindset regarding school security!
COL (Ret) Byron A. Freeman is a retired military police officer with more than 34 years of law enforcement and security experience. He is the President/CEO of BAF Security Solutions, LLC.