Elvis Slaughter, MSCJ
On December 12, 2019, I was fortunate to attend the conference “Preparing for and Responding to Active School Threats” held in Dallas, Texas. The School Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC), Frontier Communications, and Police Chief Tim Enos of the Sarasota County School District Police provided the training. Common Sense School Safety, Safer Schools through Technology, and Preparing for and Managing Tragedy were three topics presented through lecture, presentation, PowerPoint, and technology displays.
It is impossible to stop and prevent all incidents. Creating a comprehensive targeted violence prevention plan, which would greatly reduce the opportunity of a violent attack, is an invaluable common-sense school safety priority. Other considerations to mandate are fostering a climate of respect and trust through a prosocial relationship, building trusting relations between adults and students, and promoting an environment in which students feel comfortable sharing information. A threat assessment team should be formed and maintained strictly according to US Homeland Security recommendations, using their templates and surveys. Because of limited resources, schools must be creative and take advantage of public funding and grant opportunities local, state, and federal agencies offer.
Frontier Communications, offering technology to help K–12 and higher education meet key safety challenges, introduced emergency notification systems and emerging technology. One key item was a modern emergency notification system that can notify your entire staff, emergency responders, students, and parents with a click of a button. This system is preprogramed and can send text, phone calls, and information to TV screens and billboards. They also offered cyber security protection and school security access control systems that can detect unlawful entry by sex offenders and criminals to school grounds. There are also cameras with facial recognition and a technology system that can detect and describe the weapon a person is concealing.
Preparing for and managing tragedy was a key part of the conference training. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, was a valuable teaching lesson. It took law enforcement up to 12 minutes to enter the building where Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and staff. A school security officer observed Mr. Cruz entering the building through an unlocked gate and unlocked school door with a large black bag. No alarm was sounded or code red called. People were killed on the first floor and third floor. The second floor was spared because after hearing gunshots, they locked themselves in classrooms. Mr. Cruz had made threats by social media and telling colleagues he would shoot up a school. He also made a video outlining his plan. The FBI was notified about Mr. Cruz’s social media posts, but the ball was dropped, and Mr. Cruz carried out his plan. This could have been prevented if a threat assessment team were active and proactive.
Conclusion: One safety goal is to slow the bad person down, speed police response, and use the best defense available. Technology and training are available to help achieve those goals. Florida created State Law SB7030 in response to the Parkland school shooting. This law requires all schools in Florida to have an armed person on school grounds while school is in session. Monthly active shooter training and many other items, including technology designed to enhance school safety, are included in this lengthy law. According to Police Chief Enos, 72% of students bullied are more likely to bring a gun to school. Therefore, a strong anti-bullying policy must be in place and strongly enforced. The SRO, threat assessment team, and administrators must take corrective actions immediately.
The SSAC has partnered with many organizations, including the US Secret Service and the FBI National Academy, over the years. No training in school safety is a fatal problem, and the wrong training can be a much bigger problem. Evidently, from interaction with educators, more people believe than disbelieve a shooting will not occur at their school. Maintaining a safe learning environment is everyone’s responsibility, including the school board, administrators, educators, support staff, and the community. With that in mind, I congratulate Dr. Teresa A. Lance, and TFD215 school district for recently forming a threat assessment team.
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