In response to pressure from parents who lost children in the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, federal agencies will release a clearinghouse of school safety best practices this fall, allowing administrators to learn from their peers, Education Week reports.
Determining what the clearinghouse should include, however, may be difficult. Researchers, policymakers and educators disagree about how to keep schools safe, as policymakers tend to push for locks, cameras and other physical safety features while researchers urge more preventative measures like addressing bullying and the risk of suicide.
School safety is usually administered at a local level, but Max Schacter —whose son Alex was one of 17 who died in the Parkland shooting — believes there is no need for each district to “reinvent the wheel.” The victims’ families have banded together to advocate for stronger school safety policies.
The struggle between school safety and school climate manifested recently when the Chicago Public Schools voted to spend $2.4 million to replace metal detectors. Before making the decision to purchase the machines, which run about $3,350 a piece, the board debated whether the machines help keep students safe or create a prison-like atmosphere. Each school council will decide whether to get a new metal detector or remove the ones that are already in place.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has elevated the national dialogue surrounding school shooting and gun violence in schools and has been the catalyst for change. In the year following the Feb. 14 attack, federal and state laws have been passed in regard to school safety, such as STOP School Violence Act of 2018.
However, many challenges remain. For example, in the days following the shooting, President Donald Trump said he supported legislation to improve the federal background check system and raise the minimum gun purchasing age limit to 21, but he later backed off raising the age limit. Also, the U.S. Department of Education considered using federal grant funding to arm teachers, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos later said she didn’t plan to take a position either way.
Experts recommend that local schools conduct a security assessment of their campus to make decisions based on their needs.