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Two experts are collaborating on new ways school campuses can develop a comprehensive security plan to reduce school shootings.

A model to reduce school shootings

Two experts are working together and collaborating on new ways school campuses can develop a comprehensive security plan to reduce school shootings

Key points:

For three consecutive years, the U.S has had a record high number of school shootings, resulting in a repetitive cycle of grievances, anger, and frustration. The U.S. had 344 school shootings in 2023, which surpassed the record-breaking number of 308 school shootings in 2022 as reported by K-12 School Shooting Database.

On January 5, 2024, this past month a mass shooting occurred at  Perry Middle school in Iowa and left an 11-year-old student and the school principal dead and six other individuals wounded. The shooter, a student, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene.

As media reports were coming in, it took law enforcement 7 minutes to respond to the Perry Middle school shooting. When an active shooter is on campus, “seconds count.” This is why all schools need to have a permanent School Resource Officer assigned.

It has to stop. Our students and teachers deserve better and need to have a safe and secure school environment. Parents should not have to worry about their children in school.

There are many questions coming from the Iowa shooting and other past shootings, including whether or not it could have been prevented.

Are there lessons learned from past school shootings? Yes, 10 of the deadliest mass killings in the United States were carried out by attackers who exhibited some form of concerning behavior in the months or years prior to their attacks, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

Mass shooting perpetrators had made previous threats, been violent, alarmed family members, or signaled their intentions online, and in two attacks, there had been previous criminal charges or allegations of abuse, the Post reported.

“Very rarely do we see someone commit a mass shooting where there were no warning signs,” Lisa Geller, a senior adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told the Post.

Is there technology that can help collect and connect red flags or warning signs before a known at-risk individual escalates to a shooting? Yes–the First Preventers Platform helps schools collect, funnel, share, assess, and connect the dots before disruptive incidents by leveraging people, systems, and automation to eliminate dangerous gaps and information silos so they and their resource teams (Threat Assessment Teams and Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Teams) can more effectively help at-risk individuals and prevent disruptive incidents, delivering world-changing results–saving lives, reputations, and bottom lines.

In 2023’s record levels of shootings, suicides, overdoses, hate crimes, and other incidents are red flags that new technology is needed to equip schools, colleges, workplaces, and communities to help known at-risk individuals and keep them from falling through the cracks.

With soaring numbers of at-risk individuals, we know that until we seriously embrace a collaborative, proactive pre-incident intervention and first preventers approach, we will continue to see the high numbers of deaths and injuries associated with school shootings and mass shootings.

We do know that past shooters have researched past shootings that have made national news, especially the Columbine school massacre.

We also know from research and National Threat Assessment Center reports that most shooters shared messages or images on social media or told someone about their intentions.

The key to safer schools is collecting scattered warning signs exhibited by at-risk individuals so threat assessment teams can see the bigger picture and act on them to help the at-risk individual(s) before they end up taking the lives of innocent children and adults in schools and communities.

Through careful planning, it is possible for schools to develop a high-quality security crisis plan that meets campus needs without breaking the budget. Work with a school security expert, school administrators and their staff, and local emergency responders to complete a thorough risk assessment to include all hazards approach of all their schools and campuses.

Schools are soft targets, and their campuses are unique and have their own individual challenges, i.e., size, age, location, design or type of construction and other factors.

A risk assessment pinpoints critical areas of vulnerability and will identify the school’s security strengths, as well as any security weaknesses. The entire process is designed to reduce incidents and try to anticipate any emergencies that might occur on campus. The prevention assessment identifies gaps, silos, disconnects, and blind spots that keep school threat assessment teams from seeing the bigger picture and allow at-risk individuals to be missed as they escalate on a pathway to violence.

Any plan will undoubtedly include security technology, but no single security implementation will protect a school–true protection comes from layers of security protocols and ongoing intervention processes that focus on the at-risk individuals before they escalate and show up ready to execute their plan. 

It is highly recommended to implement a closed-campus policy–this will deny the unwanted individuals. All entry, exit, and classroom doors should be locked throughout the day.

If early arrival of students before school starts is necessary, a designated door should be identified and monitored by a staff member.

School administrators should ensure they have a comprehensive safety, prevention, and security plan in place. The plan should be a living document that is continually updated to meet the challenges of a particular school and campus and to eliminate the common blind spots that allow at- risk individuals to fall through the cracks.

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