Here's how to get serious about school safety
The President met with survivors of mass shootings at the White House Wednesday, asking their thoughts on what should be done to address, if not solve, the problem. While we know the White House is moving quickly to ban bump stocks, and appears to be in favor of more thorough background checks and the possibility of arming school teachers, there are other strategies that should be part of the debate.
One alternative for protecting schools and students that is already up and running is the National School Shield program.
Launched in 2012 with the support of the NRA, the program is "focused on improving school security in an effort to help prevent national tragedies at educational institutions in America."
Under the leadership of former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, the group produced a study in 2013 that found a serious lack of training and preparation, coupled with a growing lack of resources, put schools in a uniquely vulnerable positon:
While there are numerous government agencies and programs that provide valuable school safety resources, there is a lack of coordination between the agencies resulting in gaps, duplication and inefficiencies. Furthermore, for schools wanting to comprehensively address school security matters, persistent funding challenges often prevent districts from implementing necessary changes and can even lead to the elimination of once successful school security programs.
The report made a series of recommendations on how to improve school safety that are as relevant today as they were when it was written five years ago. Among those recommendations:
Adoption of Model Law for Armed School Personnel Many states prohibit anyone other than a sworn law-enforcement officer or licensed security guard to carry a firearm in a public or non-public school. In order for a selected school staff member to be designated, trained and armed on school property, the states will have to change current legal restrictions.
No. 3: School Resource Officer Each school that employs an SRO should have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or an “interagency agreement,” between the appropriate law-enforcement agency and the school district. This contract should define the duties and responsibilities of the SRO, as well as the applicable laws, rules and regulations.
The objective of the SRO is not to increase juvenile arrests within a school, but to provide security and to support the normal disciplinary policies of a school consistent with the MOU.
National School Shield offers training, advocacy, support, and financial assistance to schools. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach, and does not insist on having armed personnel in every school building. Instead, National School Shield works with local schools and security personnel to develop programs and training that meet their particular needs.
The goal, however, is the same for all concerned: making schools safer.
It's an approach that grew, in part, out of the Israeli experience with a terorr attack on a public school. As Lawrence Meyers wrote in Townhall:
In 1974, Israel endured the Ma’alot Massacre in which “Palestinian” terrorists took 115 people hostage at Netiv Meir Elementary School. Twenty-two children and three others were killed and 68 injured. Israel now requires schools with 100 or more students to have a guard posted. The civilian police force handles the entire security system of all schools from kindergarten through college. The Ministry of Education funds shelters and fences, reinforces school buses, and hires and trains guards.
Guards don’t just stand around. They check everyone entering, and engage threats.
And yeah, they’ve got guns.The lawful purposes for carrying guns are very clear: protect school personnel and students, create a sense of security, deter the ill-intentioned, and provide self-defense.
But that is only the first layer of protection:
Israel’s Police Community & Civil Guard Department have a preventative care program that encourages safe behavior and offers violence protection strategies in normal situations. Yet students are also trained in how to respond to an active shooter situation.
Ben Goldstein, an American who made aliyah to Israel, and now serves as volunteer security and supporter of IDF soldiers, says America is behind the curve. Nevertheless, he says, it doesn’t take much for students and teachers to protect themselves.
“Barricade, barricade. Are desks movable? Is the teacher’s desk movable? Can they barricade inside of 20 seconds? If the shooter gets in, the kids should take whatever they’ve got and attack. They can’t just sit there frozen or they will die. America does earthquake drills, why not active shooter drills? More kids have been killed by shooters than earthquakes.”
Barricading works, says Goldstein.In an active shooter situation, where a gunman is roaming a campus, five minutes is a lifetime, enough time for law enforcement to get to the scene. “In those five minutes, the shooter will have to move from class to class, reload, clear malfunctions, all that stuff takes time. And during gunfire lulls, kids must be taught to do something. Don’t freeze.Moving once gets you out of that deer-in-headlights space. Take command of the classroom.”
There is no other way, says Goldstein, and “sometimes children must take matters into their own hands.If the school has no proper security – two guards in case one gets shot, and no active shooter protocol, and no doors to withstand an attack – then the child needs to run as fast as they can AWAY from the shooter.”
It's a pro-active approach to school security that has prevented tragedies. It is the kind of approach that can be adapted to the United States -- something the National School Shield program is woring ot make happen.
It needs to happen faster -- and in more places. Even the most ardent Second Amendment supporter understands that massacres like those we have witnessed in recent months cannot be allowed to continue. Yes, there is no way to stop evil from inflicting harm. But there are positive steps we can take now to understand, identify, prepare or and respond to that evil when it appears.
Our sources tell us the NRA will be making a major public announcement about school safety at the annual CPAC meeting today. We will provide updates on that announcement as we get them.
At the CPAC conference Thursday, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said the NRA is focusing on policy solutions that "really protect our children," adding it is a "bizarre fact" we put more security resources into protecting jewelry stores and banks and professional sporting events than we do "our children at school."
"Does that make any sense to anybody?" LaPierre said. "Do we love our money and our movie stars more than we love our children?"
LaPierre pledge the NRA would support schools needing asistance in developing and implementing school security programs, urging them to contact the NRA's National School Shield program.
"We will provide immediate assistance and we will provide it absolutely free to any school in America," LaPierrie said.
To see LaPierre's entire speech, click here.