Jefferson County Schools considers armed officers.
(Photo by iStock)

School shootings are on the rise in the U.S., as are the demands for action. But what kind of action? Who will act, and who will pay for it? Schools, by their very nature, are not purpose-built to withstand onslaughts by armed intruders bent on violence. In fact, by being gun-free zones, they can attract cowardly terrorists or the mentally ill. So, when an assailant enters a gun-free school property, little can be done to curb or stop the violence. This ongoing vulnerability to shooting and violence is why most people want something done.

Of course, what makes the topic of safeguarding children difficult is the complexity involved. For example, the correlation between school shootings and psychoactive drugs prescribed for aggressive or hyperactive students won’t be discussed because of space limitations. The subject of small- and large-screen violence also is too complex to delve into here. Is electronic violence cathartic, or is it a cue for aggressive behavior? Behavioral scientists, however, cannot agree on that subject.

Complexity of School Shootings

When the mix also contains adolescent lack of impulse control as well as high susceptibility to peer pressure, the true cause of school violence becomes even murkier. Additionally, many in the faith community claim that fewer Americans are believers, which often leads to immorality and subpar child rearing. Families must model and teach good morals, not teachers and administrators.

Determining the causes of school shootings may be too complex for an article, but some common-sense precautions have been known for years. Students must have a plan, and it must be practiced frequently. Schools need hardening without making them look like prisons, and teachers, administrators and security personnel also need better training. So, how can parents and concerned citizens get involved? You can join the PTA or school board, write letters to people in power, or even consider homeschooling your children or seek private schools that already have good security measures.

From An Expert

To get a law enforcement instructor’s perspective, I interviewed Kevin Davis. He’s trained thousands of police officers during his 34-year career. He also performed more than 500 tactical operations between 1992 and 2004 as the team leader of his agency’s SWAT team. He worked with the Training Bureau for 18 years and holds multiple instructor certifications.

But what increases Davis’ relevance is that he attended inner-city schools: “My middle school was the city’s most violent. I saw my first stabbing when I was in 7th grade. Routinely, I saw felonious assaults, sexual assaults, intimidation and extortion for two years. I’ve dealt with violence in schools since I was a kid. As an officer, I once worked security in schools as an extra job. I fought more in that school during the day than the busiest patrol car in the city at night. There were no metal detectors, and I’ve known of weapons carried in schools for years. Shop teachers had to monitor that students were not making weapons in class.

“Once I got out of my hellhole of a middle school and got to high school, most of the troubled kids quit or were expelled. High school was certainly more pleasant. Nowadays, principals are encouraged to do everything possible to keep troubled kids in school. Is this to our detriment?”

Easy Prey

“We pay lip service to school security,” Davis said. “Most of what’s done is superficial. For example, schools are not secure to outside intrusion. Armed security or police personnel do not monitor visitor control. Building perimeters are not monitored via surveillance cameras. Many school buildings have an open design, which enables active shooters to have unrestricted access to large numbers of students in a cafeteria and other open areas. Shooters can murder students like fish in a barrel.

“School administrators shouldn’t be in charge of security. It should be a separate division that’s security or police related. The notion that making our schools into armed fortresses is too negative an image and environment is naïve; we secure government buildings to protect workers and visitors. Why not our schools? This protection, of course, costs money, and voters tend not to pass increased school levies to pay for it.

Threat Assessment Databases

“Schools should also develop databases on threat assessments. Teachers know the ‘bad’ or ‘troubled’ kids, but this system should be formalized into a violence/threat-potential program so such kids receive extra attention. The resulting info can be shared with law enforcement officers.

“I’m a proponent of the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) program here in Ohio and have taught in several programs. For many poorer districts or schools in smaller towns that cannot afford school resource officers and whose cops are always more than a few minutes away, FASTER provides an armed school employee in case things go south.

“I was a member of a tactical subcommittee tasked and convened after the Columbine school shooting by the county Emergency Management Agency to develop school plans. This subcommittee was hard work, and the total committee (including school officials, mental health workers and fire department members) produced an excellent book for schools. But these guides weren’t disseminated to school principals in my district, although some of the administrative personnel were part of the committee. How sad.

“Hyper-violent people have plagued our society for hundreds of years. We cannot expect that our soft targets, such as schools, malls, theaters and hospitals, wouldn’t be easy targets for younger hyper-violent individuals.”

Preventing School Shootings

After studying previous school shootings, Davis asserts that what is necessary to improve school safety is actually a rather extensive list. “Better intelligence assessments on threats, passive security improvements with cameras and perimeter control, metal detectors controlled by armed and well-trained security officers, improved security doors and barriers in the schools, restricted access to large group spaces like cafeterias, school resource officers with access to secured rifles, plans and training for active shooters, training for teachers in what constitutes cover, plus how to disarm suspects with handguns and long guns.”

What about outside the school? Davis said, “What can law enforcement do? Train more on solo-officer responses to active killers. Sadly, the recent war on police has driven several things. Officers are not engaging in proactive policing, agencies are not recruiting aggressive personalities, and policy and training is now focused on de-escalation or reducing police violence.

“At the same time as officers are being encouraged — forced — to be less aggressive and take the time to talk or not engage, violent individuals are plaguing society. A kinder, gentler guardian is not who you want in uniform when slaughters like those in Parkland occur.”

This article was originally published in Personal Defense World No. 220. To order a copy, please visit

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