Let’s get serious about school safety
Nearly 20 years separate the horrible tragedies at Columbine High School in Colorado and Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In that time, too little has been done to make our schools safer. That’s why our grieving nation is again searching for a solution.
If America is ready to get serious about school safety, we need to focus on a range of pressing issues—including mental health, family breakdown, culture, media, and more.
Our children and grandchildren deserve to be safe at school. We can’t allow another tragedy to occur.
It’s time to set aside political agendas and get serious about school safety. Here are 10 questions we should start asking.
The knee-jerk answer by many liberals is ‘ban guns.’ But I think the questions we face are just too complex to be resolved by two little words.”
Kay Coles James
President, The Heritage Foundation
Facts + Figures
- Firearms are used in self-defense hundreds of thousands of times each year.
- Most gun-related crimes are carried out with illegally owned firearms—as much as 80%, according to some estimates.
- Over 90% of public mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones” where civilians are not permitted to carry firearms.
- An estimated 60% of mass public shooters were diagnosed with a mental disorder or had demonstrated signs of serious mental illness.
- Adolescents living in intact families are less likely to exhibit violent behaviors or engage in fighting, and report lower levels of stress.
A Serious Conversation on School Safety Addresses:
- There are many security options that have been employed in some schools and countries across the world, including armed guards, improved locks and cameras, magnetometers, concealed carry, or on-site police substations.
- We have an incredibly diverse range of nearly 100,000 public schools across the country, each with their own needs and challenges.
- Decisions about school security should be determined by states and local entities, to make sure solutions are tailored to each school that needs them.
- Programs like Violence-Free Zone initiative of The Woodson Center and Operation CeaseFire have made significant progress in addressing student and youth violence.
- Innovative solutions like these can be tailored to each community’s needs and focus resources on the roots of violence.
- Lawmakers should not rush to create new laws that violate constitutional rights while ignoring the real root causes of complex societal problems that deserve attention.
- Far from being the source of violence, guns are often the solutions. Communities with right-to-carry laws often see a decline in murder rates and violent crimes as gun owners deter and defend against these threats.
- New laws will not keep guns from criminals any more than current ones have; they will only make it more difficult for law-abiding people to protect their homes and families.
- States need to reevaluate whether their current strategies are adequately serving the needs of the mentally ill.
- The federal government has a weak track record on mental health programs. States should be primarily responsible for determining mental health services.
- Both federal and state governments need to ensure their laws concerning information sharing give those responsible for protecting schoolchildren the information they need to respond to serious risks of violence.
Culture and Family
- Family plays an essential role in developing thriving children and adolescents, and its role must be respected in policy and supported in communities. Unfortunately, more and more children are experiencing disruptions in what ought to be their most secure environment.
- Civil society institutions, like churches and support groups, play a critical role in building and maintaining safe and thriving communities.
- Individuals, families, communities, and corporations need to make responsible choices regarding violence in media production and consumption.
Serious Solutions to Keep Our Schools Safe
- Improve school security with measures tailored to schools’ needs and resources, such as door barricades, bulletproof glass, door locks, safe rooms, armed resource officers, and on-site law enforcement.
- Advance innovative community programs like Behavioral Intervention Teams that identify and address bullying and other forms of conflict before they turn violent.
- Allow schools to determine how to best use resources to pursue mental health policies that meet local school needs, better serve students and engage parents.
- Support the role of families, churches, and other community institutions in nurturing thriving children and adolescents.
- Ensure Americans can defend themselves from violence by respecting the right to bear arms, enabling qualified and specially trained teachers or staff to protect students, and reconsidering ineffective gun-free zones.
Case Study in Decreasing Violence
The Woodson Center’s Violence-Free Zone initiative connects students and schools with community youth advisors who serve as hall monitors, mentors, counselors,role models, and mediators. Youth Advisors help to de-escalate conflict before it turns violent.
Violent incidents decreased by as much as 32% and suspensions decreased by 37% in Milwaukee high schools where the program was implemented.