As we confront another gut-wrenching mass school shooting, the same old failed policies of putting more guns in schools are being trotted out: add more school police, arm teachers, increase surveillance, create more militarized SWAT teams.
It’s time to reject these failed strategies and embark on real solutions to gun violence in our schools and the community.
Mass shootings in schools, while incredibly tragic, remain extremely rare, hard to predict, and difficult to stop once they begin. The presence of armed police in schools has done little to address the problem.
The Columbine school shooting in suburban Denver in 1999 played a key role in expanding school policing. What few know, however, was that there were armed school police on the campus when that school shooting began. Since then, armed school police have failed to prevent additional shootings such as the Parkland High School shooting in Florida in 2018.
It also appears that police were unsuccessful in preventing the Uvalde shooter from entering the school.
Furthermore, they were also unsuccessful, in doing anything about the school shooter at Uvalde for an hour, while he was slaughtering elementary school children, instead of doing something about it, they sat around, talking about what to do.
Over the last 12 years, 70 students have been fatally shot in a school building or about 6 per year and most of these occurred in only 5 incidents. While this is a terrible toll, it means that the chances of a young person being killed in a school shooting is about one in 10 million.
It is a terrible mistake to build an entire security apparatus around this chance for two reasons. First, policing has not proven successful at preventing these shootings, Second, school police can themselves place a huge burden on students.
The burden of school policing falls most heavily on disabled students, students of color, and LGBTQ students who report harassment and abuse and are more frequently arrested and subjected to police violence. School police also kill and injure students, subject them to humiliations, harassment, and sexual assaults, instill fear, and drive too many young people out of school and into the criminal justice system.
In short, today’s Police Officers, have all but given up their roles as a public servants and peace officers and instead moved forward as bullies and extortionists of the community.
Arming Teachers…It already exists
Arming teachers is absolutely an option. What I am talking about ALREADY EXISTS! Guess what no teachers have “gotten mad and used it to ‘quite the classroom'”, as some people have foolishly suggested (having never owned, or shot a firearm, obviously).
As of January 1, 2020, 28 states allow schools to arm teachers or staff in at least some cases or as part of a specific program. In some of these states, such as Arkansas and Colorado, there are no statutes allowing armed school personnel but also no laws explicitly prohibiting it, and state policymakers have decided to allow or encourage the arming of teachers, in sometimes innovative ways. In Arkansas, for example, the carrying of firearms on school grounds is prohibited, but there is an exception for law enforcement officers and “registered commissioned security guards.”
Some school districts, claiming a lack of resources to hire conventional guards, have “obtained licenses from the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies . . . designating school employees as security guards and allowing them to carry firearms on campus” (Keller, 2014, p. 688). In contrast, several states, such as Missouri and Montana, have laws that do explicitly authorize teachers or other staff to be armed. The states differ with respect to who can be armed and under what circumstances.
Alabama‘s sentry program, for example, allows administrators in schools without a school resource officer to maintain and use authorized weapons (Ivey, 2018). Texas has a school marshal program, in which the board of trustees of the school district or governing body of a charter school may appoint one marshal for every 200 students or for each building of the campus, subject to various other rules. In distressed rural counties in Tennessee, schools may implement policies allowing the selection of certain employees to carry concealed weapons.
Several states, including Colorado, Montana, and Ohio, allow armed teachers if the school district or charter school allows it. Other states, such as Indiana, allow individuals (including teachers) who have been specifically authorized by the school board to carry firearms on school property.
Five states allow any individual with a concealed-carry permit to carry a gun into a K–12 school, and Wyoming allows school employees with such permits to carry a gun on school grounds. Relatedly, some states allow any licensed concealed-carry permit holders who have been authorized by the school district or other relevant authority (as in Idaho) or enhanced permit holders performing their official duties (as in Mississippi) to carry weapons onto school property.
Without guns, teachers or other staff have only limited countermeasures available to them when confronted with a shooter. They can run or hide, but fighting a shooter without a gun can require sacrificing one’s own life to protect others. In addition, with more armed adults, the effective response might be brought to bear more quickly. At Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for instance, a school resource officer reached the school building under attack within 99 seconds of the first shot being fired, but 21 people had already been shot by then, nine fatally. The commission investigating this shooting concluded, “This makes clear that seconds matter and that [school resource officers] cannot be relied upon as the only protection for schools. Even if there is a rapid response by an [officer], it is insufficient in and of itself in safeguarding students and teachers” (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, 2019, p. 978). Finally, just the knowledge that teachers could be armed may deter some would-be shooters.
It’s the same reason that you do not hear about construction workers or contractors cutting off there own legs, they know how to use the tools they work with. Half of the issue here is lack of education. Educating and arming teachers would allow them to protect their own lives, as well as the lives of there students because they will be the ones that are under fire anyway, and they will be there when the shooting actually starts.
Old tools like metal detectors and new surveillance technologies like smart cameras designed to identify and track potential threats are also unlikely to be effective. They cost huge amounts of money, produce large numbers of false positives, and can be misused to harass and profile students.
Students routinely complain of abuse at the hands of school police staffing metal detectors including sexual harassment, racial profiling, and invasive searches. There is also no evidence that they play any role in preventing a motivated attacker.
At best, surveillance systems may improve police response time to an incident, and more militarized SWAT units will bring greater firepower, but that will always occur after the shooting has already started, which is too late for too many.
We must completely change our approach from target hardening and an arms race to meaningful prevention efforts.
The majority of school shootings are committed by current and former students, not intruders or outsiders. In most of these cases, someone in the school community was aware that there was a threat. Several students in Uvalde reported that the shooter there was in obvious distress; engaging in self-harming behavior and fantasizing about weapons.
The people who knew there was a danger either failed to report it, or reported it and no meaningful action was taken by authorities. The fact is that policing is a reactive enterprise that has few tools to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring.
Even when police do get involved based on warning signs, they are largely unable to take meaningful action because no law has yet been broken.
While no intervention will provide complete security, we should focus on putting early warning and prevention systems in place to dramatically reduce the likelihood of these incidents.
The most important intervention is to create a healthy trusting school atmosphere in which students feel safe bringing their concerns about their own well-being and threats to the school to the attention of teachers and administrators without fear that they or their fellow classmates will be ignored or criminalized.
We also need stronger partnerships between schools, families, community institutions, and healthcare providers. Together these institutions provide a web of protection that can help identify potential threats and take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of school shootings.
Parents, clergy, and doctors should all be seen as resources in identifying and addressing potentially threatening behavior and should be in communication with school officials. This requires creating a regularized system of information sharing and putting in place procedures for responding to threats with both greater target hardening and more therapeutic interventions.
Bring Community into the Classroom
It means doing more to bring the community into the classroom, which would be aided by a community schools model that builds relationships with families and community based service providers.
Among the steps that can be taken are implementing programs like the Preventing Aggression in Schools Everyday program (PRAISE) from Philadelphia which promotes a positive school environment in ways that attempt to reduce everyday aggressive behavior like bullying that contribute to emotional distress and isolation, which are linked to school shootings and appear to have been a major factor in Uvalde based on statements by students there.
We have systematically defunded basic support services for students while ramping up spending on school police. In New York City we have more school police than counselors of all varieties combined.
Millions of kids go to schools with police but no counselor, nurse, or social worker. Recent research shows that improving the ratio of school counselors and social workers can reduce disciplinary problems, weapons-related incidents, and student suspensions. (See: Carrell, Scott., Carrell, Susan. (2006). DO Lower Student to Counselor Ratios Reduce School Disciplinary Problems? Contributions to Economic Analysis and Policy. 5:1. Article 11. Lapan, R., Gysbers, N., Stanley, B., (2018). Missouri Professional School COunselors: Ratios Matter, Especially in High-Poverty School. Professional School Counseling. 16:2.)
In addition, students report feeling safer and more positive about school and teachers report fewer disruptions in the classroom. The benefits are particularly strong in schools with high percentages of students of color.
Finally, we need to radically expand access to high-quality culturally appropriate mental health services and to link them to services provided in the community so that there is continuity of care and awareness of potential threats.
Mental health support consists of intensive interventions for students in need of long-term mental health or acute behavioral support. Interventions include individual and group therapy as well as integrated support systems at school and in the community provided by counselors, community mentors, and social workers.
School-based mental health clinics have been shown to reduce fights, suicides, and absenteeism. These services should be connected to in-school counseling programs and community-based providers to ensure continuity of care.
A study of the Emotional and Behavioral Health–Crisis Response and Prevention program to address student emotional and behavioral health showed significant effects on decreasing bullying and suspensions. (See: Bohnenkamp, J. H., Schaeffer, C. M., Siegal, R., Beason, T., Smith-Millman, M., & Hoover, S. (2021). Impact of a school-based, multi-tiered emotional and behavioral health crisis intervention on school safety and discipline. Prevention Science, 22, 492-503. )
Hoplophobia – fear of firearms
In the 60’s it would not be abnormal for a child to bring a rife to school to varment the garden after school. Trying to conduct a mass school shooting when everyone else is also armed, is all but impossible. In fact, we see far less crime in places that have higher ratios of people who carry firearms daily, be it concealed or open carry.
If we look at cities like New York, LA, Detroit, and Chicago, we see a ton of shootings and murders with firearms. This is due to the fact that at the end of the day, a criminal is not going to abide by gun regulations. They are not going to follow the law.
At the end of the day passing more restrictive gun laws only hurts those who seek them legally, for legitimate purposes. Also, restricting them creates high crime environments, comparing for example the rate of crime in the above mentions cities to an entire state, like Vermont or New Hampshire, where getting a gun, or carrying one is pretty easy for everyone.
Imaging going into a bank and trying to rob it with a pistol, when the 15 people that are in there also have a pistol.
Making it hard to access guns for law-abiding citizens is like deciding to put a pedophile in charge of daycare. You create victims. You give power to the wrong people by letting them know that all the law-abiding people will not be able to defend themselves in a given area.
Being scared and an intimate object is childish. Hoplophobia is defined as the ‘fear of firearms’ because being scared of an object with no consciousness is completely irrational, and devoid of logic.
Can we stop advocating to have more legislation that promotes this type of idiocracy?