School Safety

Passivity will never stop school shootings

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School officials, law enforcement and the community cannot look the other way while killers plot destruction.

Documenting the number of missteps that led to the Parkland school shooting requires reams of paper. The steps go back years and the failings are numerous.

And it’s not just failings on site at the time of the attack (though there were plenty). The person accused of being the shooter in this killing spree was a serial violent offender who ping-ponged around the justice and school systems but never landed anywhere significant. Instead, he was like a cobra who was feared but never defanged.

And we know the results.

According to a comprehensive study just released, foolish decisions were made regarding the accused gunman in order to:

  • minimize records of suspensions, expulsions and arrests.
  • minimize statistics of crimes being committed at school.
  • avoid stigmatizing the person who ultimately was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Parkland shows the incredible damage a single individual can do.

The study shows we cannot be passive. Schools, law enforcement, parents and community members must prioritize the lives of the 99 percent of students who have done nothing wrong. We need to maximize their educational experience instead of taking a “see no evil” approach with 1 percent of the students who are causing – or are inclined to cause – irreparable damage and loss of life.

Many factors come into play in countering active shooters and there are no foolproof, guaranteed methods of success. Yet there are many effective tools at our disposal.

One is to focus on removing the tools of the attack. These include sharp objects, improvised weapons and, of course, guns. (Please note this is not a general statement on gun control. Simply: We don’t want students bringing guns to school.) This is the approach of airport screeners.

Second, focus on prevention through monitoring behavior. Israeli security forces are the best in the world because they focus on understanding and identifying pre-attack behaviors and preempting violence.

These are not revolutionary ideas, but common sense. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s sense that has become uncommon.

Vaughn Baker

Vaughn Baker is president of Strategos International, a Kansas City, Mo., -based firm that provides security training, consulting and executive protection services. Baker has 20 years of experience in law enforcement including patrol, investigation, SWAT and special operations. He has trained thousands of school, health care, government, law enforcement and military personnel in security practices. Baker has also developed a specialized intruder response curriculum for schools and churches, including some of the nation’s leading training on behavior pattern recognition.

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