It’s a question that has been debated time and time again: what is the answer to stopping school shootings in America? The debate about gun control heats up every time a mass shooting happens. Some people say we need more guns, while others argue for gun bans. However, both of these solutions have proven to be ineffective in the past. So if guns are not the answer, what is?
There are two reasons that guns are not the answer to the resolution of school shootings:
- There have been multiple instances of officers and armed security failing to respond effectively to active shooters with guns. Examples are the Parkland and Uvalde school shooting. Just because there is a gun at the school does not mean it will eliminate the threat.
- Gun bans are not going to be effective in the United States because there are too many guns that are already owned. It is estimated that there are over 400 million guns in the United States. According to the 2021 National Firearms Survey, 32% of Americans own guns, which is 81.4 million people. There is no practical and effective way to ban guns from all citizens (criminals and non-criminals). There will still be guns for people to use for mass shootings.
What Is the Answer to Stopping School Shootings?
In the wake of tragic school shootings, the question on everyone’s mind is, “what is the answer?” Proper preparation and training are the keys. Yes, most of the time, the only person that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, but a gun alone will not solve the problem. We need better security measures, training (for responders, faculty, and students), and better policies and procedures that make it harder for an active shooter to access our schools. With better preparation and training, we can better prevent future tragedies and keep our children safe.
It’s time to take a stand on school security. We can no longer sit idly by and hope that someone else will care for the problem. The time for action is now. But what should we do? What are the best solutions? Gav Schneider, a self-defense expert, suggests we focus our efforts on prevention and avoidance. For those familiar, FEMA also has an emergency management process, which is prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. This is also a good process and can have the emphasis put on the first three steps of prevention, mitigation, and preparation. Most schools spend the majority of time training for the response, which is essential, but we have seen that that approach does not work. The Uvalde officers recently received training on active shooter response. The training did not have the result that the school needed. There was an officer that had the shooter in his sights and did not take action to eliminate the threat. Relying solely on police response is a flawed system because most active shooter incidents end before the police even respond. According to the Apex Officer website, 66.9% of all active shooter incidents ended before police arrived. Of those we know the duration, 69.8% ended within 5 minutes of starting, and 36.5% ended within 2 minutes. According to the FBI, the average police response time is 3 minutes. That seems like a very fast response time, and it is, but it is not a guarantee that the police officers will be able to get there in that timeframe or be able to eliminate the threat before lives are already lost. These three critical minutes will result in lost lives if the correct security measures are not in place. This is 3 minutes of people dying. Proper preparation and mitigation to prevent active shooters access and mitigate the amount of time it takes for them to enter the school are critical. Schools need to have the correct preventative measures in place so that the attacker cannot breach the school. We need to take a proactive approach to prevention and avoidance to stop the majority of active shootings at our schools. It’s time for a change. It’s time for better security measures in our schools.
What Is the First Preventative Security Measure That You Can Take? Having a Security Assessment
A security assessment would break down all the security measures that need to be taken to have preventative action for a shooting, break-in, etc. In the case of the Uvalde shooting, the doors were not kept locked regularly. A security assessment would have easily caught that access control was not enforced. Something as simple as the locked door could have helped save 21 lives that day. With the right security consultant, you would know exactly what to do to secure your school. The consultant can also find the best equipment needed for securing each specific school. Along with finding companies with the correct equipment, they would be able to help negotiate contracts so the school system doesn’t pay too much money for the equipment or labor and can focus their resources on other items that the school and children need. Some security measures a security assessment would include are policy and procedure review, the alerting process, the lockdown process, security hardware, the structure of the buildings, and building materials. The assessment would dig into the process and see the time it took for the school to lock down after an alert was issued. It would also check to see if all of the faculty were following the lockdown procedure. The assessment would also review the policy and procedures that were to be followed to see if there were improvements that could be made to make the process more effective. Several of the security measures that a security consultant can recommend are cost-efficient and can eventually save you money. One example of this is filmed glass. No, it is not bulletproof, but it is harder to penetrate than regular or safety glass. Filmed glass also saves money on HVAC costs because the sunlight does not penetrate the glass and heat the building more. Some people want to see more police officers in schools or have the teachers armed. Both of these suggestions would be very expensive, and we have seen where it is not as effective. By having security cameras that are continuously being monitored, you can have time to alert law enforcement of the first sign of a suspect before they reach the doors of the school. Monitored security cameras combined with keeping exterior doors locked gives the school more time and control of the situation. The average time it takes for a police officer to get to the school, once alerted, is 3 minutes. If you can keep the shooter outside of the school for 3 minutes, the likelihood of them getting in at all is very slim. Security consultants can help guide schools in preparing for an active shooter situation. We need to make it more difficult for an active shooter to gain access to our schools. This means improved security at entry points, as well as more vigilant monitoring.
Policies and Procedures Reinforcement for Schools
There need to be better policies and procedures that make it harder for an active shooter to access our schools. This might mean stricter entrance requirements or more vigilant monitoring of students and staff. It should be easier to identify potential threats before they have a chance to get close and act. While prevention, avoidance, and mitigation are the steps that should get the most focus and attention, there still has to be time spent on what to do in response if these security measures aren’t taken or do not work. In the Uvalde shooting, the response times of the officers were quick, but the officers and the staff failed to respond correctly, resulting in a catastrophic loss of life. Training for both responders and faculty is essential. Active shooter drills should be mandatory, and everyone should know what to do in the event of an attack. An acronym ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, is an excellent resource for planning an active shooter response. What is the school’s procedure to alert the entire school if something is seen? How does the school ensure all pertinent information is given to the rest of the school? Is there an intercom system, and how is it activated? What steps must be taken to get the information to the correct person over the intercom system? How is the school locked down? The doors should already be locked, but what does the lockdown procedure in each classroom look like? What does the faculty do to further lock down? Do all teachers and students know exactly who does what? Whose responsibility is it to inform the police? Does the faculty know what to do to counter an attack? When is the correct time to evacuate? Are there routes for all staff and students to evacuate efficiently? Whatever the specific measures, it’s clear that we need to do more to protect our children. They deserve nothing less.
Another Significant Preventative Security Measure That Can Be Taken Into Account Is CPTED
We can rely heavily on a process called CPTED to answer several of the security measures. CPTED is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This process focuses on the building and construction materials, the layout, and the environment surrounding the site/school. These measures can be taken to catch the intruder before they even get near a door to try and enter a school. How visible to school staff are the parking lots and access points to the school? Are there barriers, even as simple as bushes, blocking the view of staff to these access points and the grounds of the school from their windows? Does the school look secure from the outside? Are the visible security cameras, lights, or other items that show outside people that the school is not an easy target that they can encroach on without being seen? Are the grounds taken care of? Are the trees and bushes that can prevent good sight trimmed back? Does the school look well maintained, and does it seem like people care and put money into it? Does it look like the school would be hard to break into? Whether new or old, does it looks well maintained and up to date? Where are the access points? Are they easily monitored, or are there too many to reasonably watch? These are all things that CPTED takes into consideration. These measures can help prevent an active shooter from even considering approaching a school.
Robb Elementary School Uvalde, Texas: Security Analysis
Now that we have gone over what security measures need to be in place, we can break down the Uvalde shooting to see where implementing these measures could have prevented the loss of life. It is now evident that Robb Elementary was not prepared for an active shooter incident. There is nothing that we can do to bring the 21 victims back or to heal the wounds their families and friends have, but we can examine what can be done in the future to prevent more of these tragedies. I am not going to critique the exact actions or tactics of the police or other people involved. Instead, I am going to focus on how proper preparation, including access control measures and communication, could have prevented the shooter from entering the school. Mike Glover has a good video on YouTube, and ALERRTS has a good article that does more of the critiquing, and I am linking those at the bottom of this article.
Several Vital Factors That We Are Going to Analyze Become Problems
1. At 11:30 AM, The suspect leaves the crash site and climbs the fence.
Coach Yvette Silva was outside on the playground with third-grade children. She noticed a backpack thrown over the fence and a person climbing over. She then noticed the suspect pull out a gun and start shooting. She had a radio that she used to radio the office saying, “Coach Silva to office, somebody just jumped over the fence, and he’s shooting.” She began yelling to all on the playground to lock down. The suspect continued to walk toward the building and continued to shoot. Coach Silva expected to hear an announcement on the intercom shortly after but did not. During this time, Mandy Gutierrez, the principal, heard the alert on her radio. She attempted to use the Raptor System to alert the school, but because of the poor wifi signal, she had trouble. She did not attempt to communicate through the intercom system but instead called the police chief, who told her to “Lock it down.” The principal told the custodian, Jaime Perez, to lock the doors. Initially, he started to, but after hearing gunshots, he returned to the cafeteria. The only people that were able to begin the lockdown process were the ones that heard the gunshots.
2. At 11:27 AM, An exterior door to the school is propped open by a teacher. She later shuts the door but does not lock it.
Backing up a few minutes in the timeline. A common practice at this school seems to be propping open doors. There were large rocks near all exterior doors, several of which were painted, which would make it seem as though they used the rocks to prop the doors open frequently. Later, several faculty members confirm this to be a common practice. At 11:29 am, the teacher kicked the rock and closed the door but failed to check to see if the door was locked. If she had checked, would she have known where the key was to lock it? This should be something that should be a standard policy- locked exterior doors at all times at a school. Was the door malfunctioning? After inspection, the door seemed to be properly functioning, but it was a common practice by the school not to lock it. Was there a policy in place to keep the exterior doors locked? In the west building, the policy was only to lock two of the three exterior doors, but even those two doors remained unlocked most often. Why would they even prop doors open if they aren’t kept locked? Multiple staff said they keep the doors propped open to make it easier to get into the door, especially for subs that didn’t have access. If this school had a security assessment done before this incident, all of these questions would have been asked, solutions would have been made, and should have been enforced. It is never acceptable for exterior doors to a school to be unlocked. The type of door frame and glass would also have been looked at and addressed in a security assessment. The glass used at Robb Elementary is safety glass, which is meant to break easily. One thinking a security consultant would recommend is either putting bulletproof glass or filmed glass. Most schools would not have the money to use bulletproof glass, but filmed glass, which is cheaper, would help harden the windows and make it more challenging to get inside. A few minutes after the door was closed, the shooter walked through this door with no difficulty. There was nothing to keep him from just walking in.
3. At 11:29 AM, After The Teacher Shuts The Door, She Goes To Another Door To Be Let In By Another Teacher. She Explains The Situation To That Teacher, While Frantically Calling Someone On Her Phone.
The teacher was attempting to alert other teachers and the school of what was going on. She was attempting to alert and lockdown, which should be done. Was there a protocol that she should follow to alert the school? Yes, the school had recently adopted the Raptor Alert System. Although they had been using this system for ten years to screen visitors, they had just started using the alert system in February of 2022. If there is, did she follow it? Unfortunately, many factors made using the alert system harder for teachers and staff. All Uvalde CISD had access to the alert system but could not always use it at school. The poor wifi connection and cell service made it difficult to get onto the app at times. Sometimes teachers and staff would not have their phones with them, or they would b turned off. Some employees would have to log into a computer to see the alert. How are the students, teachers, and faculty supposed to alert the school of an emergency? The teachers and staff are supposed to be using the Raptor Alert System, but this technique of alerting was not always possible. It is crucial to have a procedure in place to alert the school of an emergency, a procedure that will always work, not just part of the time. There should always be a PACE plan in place. PACE is an acronym for Primary, Alternative, Contingency, Emergency. If your primary plan cannot function, for whatever reason, you should have an alternative plan to ensure safety. Another problem with the alert system they used is that the teachers did not always take it seriously. Many people testified to the investigative committee that there were so many alerts from what they call bailouts that the alerts were not always taken seriously by all staff. This is a severe problem. If there is a policy in place for an alert system, teachers and staff need to understand that when that alert system goes off, they must act and follow the procedures that are in place. Is there an intercom system that could be accessed instead? They do have one, but it was not attempted to be used. This is a perfect example of how they could have used a PACE plan. Since the Raptor Alert system was not working, the alternative plan could have been to alert a need for lockdown through the intercom system. How is the intercom accessed, and who can access it? Would teachers take this type of alert more seriously? At 11:32 am, shots were fired into multiple classroom windows from the outside. There still was not a lockdown in place. Ultimately, there were lockdown procedures and active shooter procedures in place, but they were not followed, and they failed.
4. At 11:33 AM, The shooter walked into the school, and it only took him 24 seconds to reach rooms 111 and 112 and shoot into the classrooms. After about 8 seconds of shooting outside the doors, he entered the first classroom.
Why was he able to walk right into the classrooms? The shooter entered room 111, and it was connected to room 112 through an interior door in the classroom. Neither the door to room 111 nor the interior door linking it to room 112 was locked. It is believed that room 112’s door to the hallway was locked. It was a known issue from multiple walk-throughs that teachers had a habit of not locking doors. This was against policy but did not have repercussions for the disregard of the policy. The door to room 111 was hard to lock, and administrators knew that the door was rarely, if ever, locked. There was no work order done and no attempt to fix the lock on room 111’s door. It was still possible to lock the door. However, it took extra effort. If a work order had been put in, there is only one maintenance man that “specializes” in fixing doors. I say “specialized” because he had to use YouTube videos and get help from a local locksmith to be able to fix the doors. The policy of the school was to keep all classroom doors and any interior doors connecting classrooms locked at all times. This was a policy that was not widely enforced. Were these classrooms alerted of the emergency? These teachers did not receive an alert and did not know that there was an active shooter on their campus or that an emergency lockdown needed to be in place. Because of this, these classes did not go into lockdown. Ultimately, the failure to have the school prepared led to the lost lives of these precious children and teachers.
If you have kids, you need to be demanding that their schools have the right security policies and procedures in place. Ask to see their latest security assessment. There is no cost that we can put on our kids. They deserve to have a safe and secure environment to learn and develop in. Don’t let anyone take that away from them. As parents, we have to stay informed and make sure that our children’s schools are staying on top of their security. I know that my children’s school is secure, because I have seen the security assessment and I have watched them keep security a top priority every day. Can you say the same about your childs school?