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Critical Juncture

Critical Juncture

I don’t have a fun or whimsical title for this week’s blog. I changed it once already because the original title listed too close to something repugnant that I’d rather not invoke. I can’t have any fun with this one this week because I’m talking about school shootings.

On Oct. 24, a former student assaulted the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis Missouri killing two and injuring an additional seven people. It follows in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas shooting earlier this year in May, and before that the Parkland school shooting, and before that the Columbine shooting. We’re not short on tragedies, I skipped a few in that list, so why are we short on effective solutions to the problem?

Let’s ignore the broad number of socioeconomic factors that can breed a school shooter and resolutions to a problem that must be wrestled with by a whole country. I would instead point to how best the problem can be tackled by the security industry. It certainly has been trying, whole sections of the industry are dedicated to school safety in the wake of a world where school children are no longer safe.

There were security guards on duty and a checkpoint posted at the school in St. Louis, the shooter didn’t enter there. Security guards were also not armed to ensure a sense of normalcy and prevent any uproar related to armed officers on school grounds. It’s not a terrible policy to have either. In all my years of journalism I’ve seen the story arguing for more police in schools make the rounds more than once, and the evidence is clear; more police in schools leads to more crime in school. When you have a bag of hammers, all your problems become nails.

The police did arrive on the scene in St. Louis with surprising alacrity, four minutes after the shooting started. It only took the scathing shame of an entire nation and 19 dead children to accomplish that. Between that quick action and security practices instituted by the school the damage was severely limited. Can security do more to prevent the deaths incurred by school shooters? Yes, Security has an extensive toolkit ranging from simple metal detectors to video surveillance systems powered by advanced AI threat detection software, access control systems, thermal imaging, passive body scanners, even drones. The security industry can turn any elementary school into a verified fortress.

Our children would certainly be safe in the prisons we build for them, but I wonder what lesson there is to be learned from that. I welcome the efforts I’ve seen from security industry leaders in trying to secure our places of learning and keep students safe, but it’s a band aid on an open wound. One I hope to revisit in an article soon. If people really want to make sure this time is the last time that we must have this talk as a nation, we’re going to have to ask ourselves the hard questions. The solution is not to build higher walls and stronger gates.


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