Ensuring Student Safety from Shooters

Author: Jenna English

The narrative of a school shooting has become all too common in recent years. So much so that we are becoming desensitized to these horrific situations and usually forget about them a few weeks after the shooting has been broadcasted over major networks. For those who work within a school, threats of a shooting seem many times inevitable and a looming thought in the back of everyone's head. Because of this harsh reality, it is imperative to be prepared and to have a system in place to inhibit a shooting from taking place. Truthfully, that is easier said than done. Based on the current political climate it is clear that these shooters easy accessibility to guns is unfading and a problem that is not going to change anytime soon. To administer change, it is up to schools and school officials to ensure the safety of themselves and the students.

So how can we do that?

Arming teachers

One of the most prominent solutions we hear is to arm teachers. Although this quick fix is closely related to policy that is likely to be passed, many risks are unavoidable when combining dangerous weapons, unqualified individuals, and children. For instance, a few months ago at a high school in California, a teacher shot a student after his gun was accidentally discharged. Although there were no fatalities, the student was bleeding, and no paramedics or officers were called. The mother of the student did not hear about the incident until her son called her a few hours later. Based on this situation, it is clear that not only is arming teachers a potentially dangerous idea but once the policy is in place, the protocol on what to do when someone gets hurt or something goes wrong is unclear.

Increased police presence

Another suggested solution is an increased police presence in schools. This alternative quick fix can be implemented immediately but similarly to the idea of arming teachers, it has dangerous side effects. For example, more school resource officers in schools who are trained to carry a gun and who do carry a gun can lead to an uncomfortable school environment. Making students feel as if they are in prison more than they already do. An increased military aura can also create a distraction to the learning process. If students do not feel like they are safe, they are more likely to fall behind in classes due to stress. It also can lead to the possibility of criminalizing behavior, behavior that is typical of teenagers surrounded by their peers.

Public health

One of my favorite approaches is the public health approach. This approach recommends that we should not make schools "harder" through more guns and police, but to make them "softer" by shaping schools as a safe place that students will feel able to talk about their problems and included in all aspects of school life. For many, how one is treated at school is one of the biggest impacts on the mental and emotional health of young adults. It is no secret that the majority of school shooters experienced some sort of bullying and seclusion from the rest of their peers. The objective of the public health approach is to be proactive in these situations. To achieve this, one of the most important things that needs to be done is to create an environment that values inclusivity and respond to troubled students in a respectful and caring manner.

If you have thoughts on this issue, leave a comment. We want to continue the discussion.

Ashleigh Diserio Consulting works with individuals and organizations, assisting them in gleaning insight into a person’s life, motivation, and past and future behavior, so certain areas of behavior can be understood with a high degree of accuracy. We provide services in the areas of criminal and intelligence investigations, management support, threat assessment, insider threat support, and education and training.