Salesmanship and fear are the two main reasons. Fear because active shooter events are more commonplace than a few years ago. The recent discovery in New Mexico of abducted children being trained to carry out armed attacks at schools is frightening. Since the federal government won’t address some of the underlying issues of gun violence by creating sensible legislation maybe they can concentrate instead on finding the horrifying number of missing kids that occur every year in America 1. Just saying.
In the meantime, parents and school administrators know that something has to be done and have taken matters into their own hands. I applaud many states and school districts that have taken steps for comprehensive security improvements. Unfortunately, there are an equal number of school districts that have only made superficial changes that really don’t offer protection from the active shooter threat or errant vehicle threats. Right after the February 14th event in Parkland, everyone wanted to put more resource officers on campuses, more cameras and more access control. While on the surface these may be good ideas, just getting more is not enough. There must be processes in place that make them effective. For example, if a school increases the number of CCTV cameras, then who monitors them in real time becomes essential. Unless monitored in real-time, they only have evidentiary value. The real value of CCTV is that it allows investigators to go back in time and figure out what happened. We don’t need after the fact protection. Students and staff need to rely on protection that will actually protect them 2.
I saw a news report a couple days ago about a company offering “bullet proof” backpacks. My antennae went up – way up. There is no such thing as “bullet proof!” The correct term is “ballistic resistant” or “bullet resistant.” It may stop some types of bullets but it won’t stop all. Therefore, it is bullet resistant and not bullet proof. Shady salesmen will play on your fear and lack of knowledge in knowing the difference. Anyway, the news reporter had a marksman fire two types of handguns, which the backpack manufacturer said would be stopped, and they were, but when rounds from an AR15 (the most common type of weapon used in school mass shootings) were fired the rounds went straight through the backpack and into the dirt berm behind. The reporter asked why, and a guy whom I believe to be a company spokesman, said something to the effect, “well, it was shot at without books and binders being inside. That would change everything.” To suggest that books and binders offer ballistic protection is just ludicrous. Backpack manufacturers if I’m wrong and you have the data to prove it! Then do so and I will publically admit I was wrong. I’m amazed that Walmart and Costco are selling these backpacks for upwards of $100. Even if the backback will stop a .9mm or .45mm, a person would have to be wearing it and be shot from the back. The idea that a student could hold it in front of them and hide behind it, to me seems a little unreasonable. I have a hard time imagining a ten year old reducing herself down to the size of a book-bag.
A couple weeks ago, I was sitting next to a second grade teacher on a flight to Houston. Of course, the conversation got around to school safety. She said, “I don’t think about it. I mean, I know what the security measures are for sheltering-in-place and fire drills and such but I really don’t give it much thought, and especially the “big stuff.” I assumed she meant events like active shooters or terrorist attacks. She’s right – she shouldn’t be worrying about security. She should concentrate on teaching. Educators should not try to DIY this. Instead, they should contact security professionals that are agnostic to products and are concerned solely with providing effective security solutions. That way, educators will get honest protection options that address issues on multiple levels.
1. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts
2. One More Town – One More Family – One More Angel – One More Funeral February 22nd 2018 on-line edition of American Security Today. https://americansecuritytoday.com/one-town-one-family-one-angel-one-funeral/
Doug Haines, MPSE, is owner/CEO of Haines Security Solutions, Ventura, Calif.