School Security: Lessons from the Past and Suggestions for the Future

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Being Proactive vs. Reactive:

“Although a terrorist attack upon a school in the United States may be improbable, the first step toward preparedness is admitting that it is as least possible that terrorists could strike a school or schools in our country (USA).” (National School Safety and Security Services)

School and public safety officials nationwide absolutely must now proactively pursue prevention programs, security measures, and emergency preparedness measures to prevent a future Beslan attack on American soil.  The breakdown in communication to even talk about the likelihood of such an incident occurring and the failure to take pre-emptive steps to prevent such a disaster would be considered as "negligence" in the eyes of most educators, public safety officials, parents, media, and courts. (National School Safety and Security Services)

School boards and administrators can no longer sit back and hope for the best. They know that school safety can no longer be viewed as a “have to” type of expenditure on a budget. History has increasingly taught us that school safety is very much becoming a "pay now or pay later" situation. (National School Safety and Security Services)

In 2002, a survey was conducted by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). The survey was administered on July 14-19, 2002 and took place at the 12th Annual NASRO Conference in California. The NASRO handed out 1,000 surveys of which 658 surveys were returned. The findings from that study are as follows:
“ON TRAINING: 95% of the school-based police officers feel that their respective schools are vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The School Resource Officers (SRO) reported that they have received limited training and minimal support from outside agencies (local, state and federal) in preparing for a terrorist attack upon their schools. An example of this trend is 33% of the SROs reported that their opportunity to attend specialized training has decreased since 9/11. 66% of the SROs stated that there have been training opportunities that they have not been able to attend even though they have demonstrated a specific need.

ON TERRORISM: 95% of the SROs reported their schools as “vulnerable” to a terrorist attack, with 32% of those describing the vulnerability as very vulnerable. The same respondents stated that 79% of them believe that their schools are not prepared to respond to a terrorist attack on their schools. 82% of the SROs stated that their in-house school security personnel had not received any terrorism specific training. More shockingly, 77% stated that their teachers, administrators and support staff in their schools have not received any terrorism training. No more then 27% of the respondents reported receiving assistance in preparing for a terrorist attack upon their schools from any single listed federal, state or local agency. Further, only 16% stated that they have received support for preparedness of a terrorist attack form the US Department of Education (DOE).

ON SECURITY AND CRISIS PREPAREDNESS: 96% of the SROs described gaining access to school grounds as “very easy.” Over one-third of the SROs reported that a formal security assessment by a qualified professional has not been conducted of their schools in the last five years.

SPECIFIC RESOURCES AND ISSUES: 72% of the officers surveyed said that the FBI was not helpful to them in their day-to-day work as a school based officer. Only 25% of the SROs reported that the US DOE Safe and Drug Free Schools Program provided funding to directly support their work. 35% reported receiving no such funding and 40% was uncertain as to weather the program provided any direct support.” (Callery)

As the results from this study show, a majority of officials feel the security measures currently in place are not sufficient. In a US DOE advisory paper on schools and terrorism, responding to the results of the survey listed in the above paragraphs, several interesting points and counterpoints were raised. “Even the US DOE, a federal agency characterized for years by their denying and downplaying of the potential for a terror attack upon American schools, issued an advisory to schools in October 2004 with recommendations for heightening security and emergency preparedness in light of the Beslan, Russia school terror attacks months earlier.” (Callery)

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