Since the tragic Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012, one hundred forty two additional school shootings have been carried out in the United States alone. This averages to one school shooting every week. It is a terrible fact of modern American life that school shootings are becoming commonplace. However, many of the policies enacted during such events are insufficient at protecting students and staff. We can truly protect our children by giving school staff access to firearms and other weapons, implementing protective structures, teaching our kids to defend themselves against intruders should the need arise, and by conducting frequent and detailed drills.
When an armed gunmen enters a school building, it is clear that their intent is murder. Today’s policies require students to report to their nearest classroom, lock the doors, and remain quiet until the administration deems the threat removed. While this is not a bad strategy, the capability of an intruder to successfully infiltrate a locked room puts everyone inside at an almost guaranteed risk of death. To counteract this issue, we should require all teachers to undergo firearms training. By placing a reliable pistol inside a locked case, we would allow teachers to retrieve the weapon and set up a cover system using desks and other classroom materials. (The case is locked so that students cannot access and use the weapon in a spontaneous attack. The key would be required to be present on that room’s primary teacher/staff member at all times, so that it can be opened and accessed at any time necessary) The end goal is the creation of a makeshift bunker that will defend students and staff from intruders, but will also allow teachers and staff to return fire. By doing so, we create the opportunity to neutralize the threat before the innocent are injured or killed.
Each room should also be equipped with a fire axe. These robust tools are primarily designed to break down doors and windows during fires, but are also usable in school shooting scenarios. They can be used to offer a quick method of escape. If a shooter is attempting to break in the door, and the staff member feels they would succeed in doing so, they can use the fire axe to either break open a window and escape (assuming that the room is located in an area where such an attempt would be feasible) or alternatively assume an offensive action with it. They could stand parallel to the door (off to the side to avoid any bullets that may be fired) and wait until the door is opened before swinging the axe into the doorway, hopefully hitting the attacker in the head or torso.
Alongside these measures, we should also create blast door and bollards on all entrances to a school building. While many buildings are installing bulletproof materials in their doors, they will not stop a determined gunmen. There is nothing stopping them from ramming a vehicle into the doors, instantly gaining access to the building. Bollards are metal or concrete poles that are often placed in front of store entrances to prevent cars from running into the store. Placing them in front of entrances will prevent intruders from using their vehicles as an entry device. Additionally, the installation of metal, bullet proof shutters in front of large windows, entrances, and in certain critical hallways would prevent shooters from entering these parts of the building. These shutters would be designed so that opening them manually would be impossible without inputting a code into a keypad. (Only staff members know this code, and it exists so that students are not trapped during other emergency situations, such as fires) During the day, the entrance shutters would be closed to prevent attackers from walking in the building.
Erecting a 2.5 meter (8.2 ft) closed mesh fence around the school property will prevent attackers from entering the premises. Closes mesh fences are almost impossible to climb, and using cylindrical corner posts would make it simple and easy to extend the fence in any direction, as most school properties are not entirely square. Closed mesh fences are also nigh impossible to cut with anything short of power tools. Extending preexisting camera systems (which would be constantly monitored by at least one staff member) to cover the entire fence line would allow staff to alert the administration and law enforcement if anyone attempts to infiltrate the premises. Electronic gates would allow vehicles to enter and leave the building if they had appropriate codes (staff members) or were opened by office staff, who determine whether a person entering is a threat or not. Intercom systems will allow them to make this judgement call accurately. At the end and beginning of the school day, these gates may be opened to allow buses to enter and parents to pick up/drop off children, but are otherwise constantly closed. The gates themselves would almost reach the ground, and would be the same height as the regular fence.
If a gunmen does successfully enter the building and manages to corner a student who cannot reasonably reach a safe area, that student should have the right to defend themselves in any way possible. The use of utensils, chairs, tables, and any other object as weapons should be encouraged, with students receiving training on how to guard themselves during physical confrontations, as well as tips to avoid bullet fire, though these are unfortunately not very beneficial in close quarters situations. (This is not an extensive training course. It is merely a very short lesson on using the environment to avoid damage and confront shooters. This is not a Jackie Chan Kung Fu seminar, nor is it some impractical punch-the-shooter game.) Whether students attempt to tackle, hit, or otherwise subdue the assailant, they should be allowed and encouraged to do so if it offers them the best chances of survival in the specific circumstances. School shootings are kill or be killed situations, and students need to be able to take such drastic methods if they need to.
All of these points, however, are useless if they are not practiced. Many schools neglect appropriate drill procedures, with some not practicing them at all. Conducting drills is a necessary step in any procedure, and failing to do them can only result in mistakes and confusion that could be lethal. We cannot afford to endanger the lives of our students because of ineptitude that could have been avoided with practice and refinement. A good plan will fail if it cannot be executed correctly. However, it may be beneficial to conduct these drills after school, involving only teachers. This is so that students who may go on to become school shooters do not use the disclosed information to plot an attack that overcomes the precautions. The only thing that students need to do is quickly get in a classroom with a teacher, and they should be safe, assuming these instructions are properly followed.
Of course, there are various objections to many of these arguments. One of the largest objections often comes from parents, who are generally upset with the idea of telling their children to attack someone with a gun. They interpret this as the administration advocating them going after the gunmen, rather than acting defensively, as is described here. It would be incredibly dangerous and immoral to let students search for the gunmen and attack them, as even untrained marksmen (which make up the vast majority of school shooters) would be capable of killing them rather easily if this were the case. Instead, we should allow students to attack the gunmen in situations where escape is a less safe option. This point cannot be stressed enough. The safety of the students is of paramount importance, and this is encouraged only when it presents the best option for survival.
Another objection regards the mental effect such proposals would have on students. People would claim that some of these could make school feel like more of a prison than a place of learning. While they are somewhat correct, this could be counteracted by fun decorations. Students could design and craft paints, decals, and other artistic creations that could lesson the dreary nature of many of these structures. Additionally, not all of these structures are necessary for every school building. Some smaller communities would not require such extensive measures as larger school districts, as the risk of such events occuring is substantially lower.
Other concerns deal with the issue of the effects of kids being near guns, specifically the safety risks involved, as well as the possibly psychological impact of students, particularly young ones, seeing teachers armed with guns. While safety risks can never be fully eliminated, it should be emphasized that this plan features armed staff as a last resort measure. If the gunmen is already in the room, there is nothing preventing him from killing everyone. This is why having an armed teacher in the room can save lives. They are the last line of defense, not the first. Additionally, the average school day will not even feature the gun in any capacity. The locked box that the gun would be placed in would intentionally be placed in an area where the students would either not be able to physically access it, (depending on age and height) or would be unable to open it without the key. For additional safety measures, the gun should be unloaded inside the box, so that even if the box is unlocked, the weapon would still need to be loaded. The box would come equipped with a wired and wireless alarm that would sound in the school office(s), instantly alerting staff if a box were unlocked. This prevents students from sneaking the gun out of its case, should the teacher be careless enough to lose/entrust the key to another student. (It should be made clear that mistakes such as these could very well be grounds for immediate termination. We cannot allow accidents to claim innocent lives.)
Many also have complained that having the children near guns in this manner could cause students to develop abnormally, “When violent force is upheld as safety, fear and silence creep in.” (Huffington Post) This argument assumes that kids should be fearful of the presence of guns. While this certainly reaches into a much wider debate, we must teach our children that guns are merely tools, and the only threat from them is either misuse or human evil. They should understand that the only reason they exist on campus is their own safety, because something could happen. We need to counsel students so they do not feel afraid of the unlikely. They need to be able to understand and think at a level logical enough that allows them to ignore the gun in favor of living out their academic lives peacefully, rather than letting it get to their heads.
Financial concerns are also a point to be considered. It is true that some of these objectives would truly be rather costly, especially to communities with low funding. However, fundraisers and government support can overcome these costs. Parents are more likely to donate to such funds because it impacts the safety of their children.
Again, not everything is necessary for all school districts, and costs will vary greatly. Some schools might have a relatively cheap price compared to those larger districts in urban areas. Even these schools could pull it off, as larger schools mean larger amounts of people, which then equates to more fundraising money.
Still others would say that violence is never the answer to any problem. While it is perfectly correct for us to attempt to counsel and help out students who are suspected of plotting such acts, we must recognize that there is never a guarantee of who will do what. Oftentimes, the threat posed by the perpetrators is not realised until the shooting is already underway. The shooter’s only priority at this point is to kill as many as possible, and the only way to stop them is to either critically injure or kill them. Since 1980, 305 individual school shootings have occured in the United States, of which roughly twenty percent involved the shooters death. It should be noted that this number is significantly decreased because of the sheer number of incidents that do not qualify as school shooting scenarios of the type offered here. (For example, gang related activity causing a student to get shot in a parking lot, suicide attempts, and, in one instance, russian roulette.) Generally, events that involve a gunmen opening fire (or attempting to) in a school building result in the death of the gunmen, either by suicide or the actions of law enforcement. The point is that school shootings are situations where diplomacy is no longer an option. There is no threat of an invasion by Nazis because violence solved that problem in 1945. Violence will also solve school shooters.
Sadly, there is no plan that is one hundred percent foolproof. No matter what we do, there will always be someone who finds a way to exploit gaps in our armor. Incidents will happen where tragedy still occurs. However, it is these moments that teach us where we are failing. It is from here that we can analyze the tactics used to penetrate our schools, and find logical and rational ways to overcome them.
This topic needs to be discussed despite its controversial nature. If we fail to recognize the danger such situations pose, we only put out children at risk. When teachers are armed, schools are renovated with defenses, students are allowed to act intelligently and offensively, and such practices are refined with practice, the lives of both students and staff will be spared.