19 December 2012

Strategies for Protecting our Schools

Even though I wanted to write this article on the day of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, I held off for a few days so the left could spew all their idiotic gun control ideas.
Before getting into my strategies to prevent further events of violence in our schools, first let me provide my experience and expertise in the matter.  This is something that should be required from anyone who would like to have their ideas taken seriously.   First of all, I was first educated about physical security methods in the US Army Military Police Corps.  One of the major responsibilities of the military police is physical security.  Physical security relates to the protection of a structure, its contents, and its personnel.  After leaving the service, I spent two years working for the Baltimore City School Police Department.  Eventually, I went on to traditional law enforcement and eventually retired before starting Modern Combative Systems.

 Most shootings that occur at colleges, high schools, and middle schools are perpetrated by current or former students.  It stands to reason that violence at grade and preschools are most often carried out by outside individuals with a connection to someone in the school.  Often it is a domestic violence situation.  This stands to reason because most estranged couples are familiar with where the other person works.  This provides the suspect with the best chance to contact the victim because even when people stay at a temporary residence they often, by necessity, continue to go to work.
Public schools are government buildings, and we don’t seem to have any trouble allocating resources to protect places like jails, prisons, and court houses.  These places contain adults, who should at some level be capable in participating in their own safety.  The same cannot be said of most school age students, especially younger ones.  Therefore we have a responsibility to protect them.  How do we accomplish this?

The first step is taking into consideration why schools exist.  They exist to provide our children an education in the safest environment possible.  This needs to be accomplished without turning every school into an armed camp.  The most effective security measures to combat violence are often those that go unnoticed by both those that are being protected and those they are being protected from. 

Most schools, because of strict fire codes, are constructed on quality materials.  This means good doors and windows.  These things allow for effective access control as long as people who monitor control do their part.

Most schools have a buzzer on the front door, the location of which allows someone in the office to view you.  Usually all you need to do is state your name and who you are there to see and why.  One key thing needs to be added to this.  I have three kids in three different schools.  They all have seven digit codes that are used to identify them.  Anyone who attempts to enter the school to pick up or see a student should be required to provide this number when they push the buzzer.  This would be an excellent tool to control access, especially at elementary school.  There should also be a photo on file for anyone that picks a student up.  When you give your name and the student’s number, the person in the office enters it and your picture pops up.  This offers redundancy, the key to preventing failures of all types.

The next step is to have at least two armed personnel in every school.  This should start tomorrow using police.   As soon as possible however, these positions should be turned over to individuals trained specifically for this mission that is presently assigned to individual schools.  These individuals must complete a specialized course to prepare them for the scenarios they are likely to encounter.  This would not be unlike Air Marshalls whose training is concentrated on planes.  In addition to specialized courses of fire, their training should be largely force on force based making use of scenarios that have previously occurred.    It would also be my recommendation that these individuals dress in business casual, not in uniforms or dark colored sports coats.  They should look like any other adult on staff.  Not being in uniform would make it harder for strangers and others to identify them at a distance.  Obviously everyone in the school would know who they are.  In many cases, especially in grammar schools, a uniformed officer is a huge distraction to all the kids. 

Each “guard” over time would become familiar with the parents, staff, and students of their school in addition to schedules and the “daily flow” of the individual school.  Being trained in behavioral profiling, they shouldn’t have any trouble spotting individuals and situations that need their attention.  They should all be at least EMT trained if not to the Paramedic level.  Their mission should be clearly defined, and I would suggest they not become involved in disciplinary issues that do significant threat to the security of the school.  They are not there to write tickets for smoking or skipping school.

Another best practice would be to always have one guard at the main entrance (the only door that should be used during school hours) and the other should be patrolling the interior and exterior of the school.  Whenever the kids are out of the school for things like recess, the guard should be there as well.

This plan should be implemented by individual states.  In many communities, you would no doubt be able to find retired military and police officers who would be more than happy to serve in this capacity.

You are a student or outsider who is contemplating an act of violence.  Whether you live or die, your plan is to kill as many people as possible.  What school would you attack?

School A- Has metal detectors with unarmed, minimum wage guards who are shifted around from site to site based on the needs of their company.

School B- Has two highly trained plain clothes guards who know every inch of the school they guard.

These strategies are not as expensive and hard to implement as you might think.  I guess the question is, how much are we willing to pay to protect our children?

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