Active shooter events are seemingly ever-present in the twenty first century, and the newsfeeds show no signs of them slowing down. The purpose of this article is to propose a practical plan to prevent more active shooter events specifically in the school environment. This issue will never be solved until it is actively addressed, and examining breaches in security seems like the most objective place to start. A pragmatic plan to prevent school shootings is to reevaluate security personnel strategies and state and local school safety budgets.
Many schools have School Resource Officers (SROs) that are trained law-enforcement personnel serving as a liaison between school and police. However, an SRO may not be enough to deflect the severity of violence many schools are experiencing, and this can be for several reasons. A single SRO isn’t the best source to rely on to ensure security of an entire campus, simply because they won’t have the bandwidth to respond in an appropriate and timely manner. Typically, schools only have one SRO regardless of the student/faculty population which is a problem because an active shooter can still cause extreme damage if he enters a building far away from the only SRO. Second, many active shootings require an immediate reaction if they aren’t prevented. A shooter with a sophisticated plan may know to attack that SRO first, giving him ample opportunity to continue to attack the rest of the school. A possible solution: schools should have SROs proportionate to their population, say, 1 officer per 1000 student/faculty members, or by a ratio proportionate to the square-footage and entry points of the campus.
In order to supply the increased demand of SROs, a proposal would be for government agencies such as the Department of Education and Veteran’s Affairs or school systems at the local level to partner and create a program for military members leaving the armed forces; this addresses the issue of SROs needing to have law-enforcement or military experience. Additionally, it allows veterans to reenter society into the workforce with their previous skillset as a salaried employee.
Benefits of this program are abundant, as it removes the burden of having weapons in schools from the teachers and takes them out of the classroom setting. Having more law-enforcement personnel in schools would encourage interaction between SROs and students, bridging the gap in institutional education courses for weapons safety, situational awareness, and addressing any underlying fear or distrust of police officers. School systems could offer seminars tailored to the varying ages of students, which could present an opportunity for interaction with law-enforcement and military personnel and would address student’s inherent fear of authoritative public figures. As for the faculty, the SROs could conduct annual training sessions and drills increasing situational awareness in the eyes of the teachers.
In terms of execution, the most logistical way to deploy enhanced security staffed by veteran SROs is to split the budget between the Department of Education, Veteran’s Affairs, government grants for counterterrorism, and school grants for increased security measures. The budget rightfully deserves to be split between these institutions because they address safety concerns for their respective consumers in a symbiotic way. On a micro budgeting scale, each state can delegate a fraction of the education budget to school safety initiatives. The budget for each cluster can again be proportional to school size for both square-footage and population. Lessening the cost for each federal department along with formulating a budget strategy on a local level strengthens the chances that a solution will be enacted sooner rather than later, and hopefully sooner than the next school shooting.
Encouraging these conversations would remove the fear that increasing law-enforcement or military presence in schools would cause a disruption to the learning environment. While this proposed idea is certainly not the only solution, it seems like a good place to start because above all, an active shooting incident is going to disrupt a peaceful learning environment the most.