- In the wake of the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, school leaders across the country are reassessing their own policies and safety measures, including controversial hard measures, such as increased police presence and armed staff, and softer measures, such as additional counselors and behavioral specialists, Education Week reports.
- While visible measures such as an increased school police presence and installing metal detectors may be more reassuring to some parents and students in the short-term, there are concerns about how these measures will affect the learning environment as well as students' civil rights.
- Some school security experts feel that the best strategies to promote school safety involve additional staff training and providing increased means for students to report concerns about classmates without fear.
The recent school shooting in Florida has once again sparked a national discussion about school safety, gun regulations, and mental illness. The long-running debate over whether more guns in schools will solve the problem has surfaced the issue of whether an increased police presence is a solution or a bigger problem. School leaders are concerned not only about the safety of students, but also about how school violence affects students and staff and about the legal issues involved in the issue.
Overall, schools are still a safe place and relatively few violent deaths occur on school premises. While school protection measures certainly need to be addressed, President Donald Trump is siding with a number of experts in pointing to the increased need for mental health services as a good way to approach the issue. According to a 2012 report commissioned by the National School Boards Association's Council of School Attorneys, “School Shootings and Student Mental Health — What Lies Beneath the Tip of the Iceberg,” school resources and policies concerning mental health are of prime importance. “Research indicates that approximately 18% of children and adolescents have a mental health disorder, and that approximately 5% are severely emotionally disturbed. The odds are, therefore, that every classroom in every school has at least one student with a mental health disorder," the report states. "The vast majority of students who have mental health disorders, even severe ones, are served within the general education system and are not receiving special education services.”
Another deterrent to school violence is a school climate that is conducive to student reporting of threats and concerns about potential threats. A past report by the U.S. Secret Service concluded that “attackers in 31 of 37 analyzed shooting incidents had told at least one person about their plans beforehand." In most cases, at least two people, such as classmates, friends and siblings of the attackers, knew about the attack in advance. Modern technologies are making this reporting easier than ever. This may be a great investment for schools and may reduce not only school violence issues, but incidents of bullying and suicide as well.