As a school teacher I do find myself losing a little sleep thinking about the possibility of school violence. Immediately following the shootings at Virginia Tech, the high school that I teach at was threatened. Apparently there was a note posted somewhere that implied there was going to be an attack on April 20th, Hitler’s Birthday. The note mentioned that what happened in Virginia would be nothing compared to what he would do. The staff, students, and teachers were notified of the threat, and the school requested additional police security. Fortunately, nothing happened that day, but many students did stay home from school, and the students that were their seemed to scared to focus on anything academic. There are some important steps to insure the safety of our students.
Schools should have armed police officers assigned to work only on campus throughout the day. The number of officers should be based on the population of the school. If an attack does occur, at least there will be someone on campus that is not completely defenseless. If a student does manage to smuggle a gun into school he will most likely be the only one with a gun. By beefing up security a little bit, a gunman will not be the only armed person in the building. Police officers on campus will be there to prevent any situations to occur. With the use of metal detectors, dogs, or any other means.
Aside from security issues, administrators are tasked with the responsibility to train the staff how to handle these problems. The trend is to perform periodic lock down drills just as they wold a fire or tornado drill. During these drills, teachers will be responsible for taking certain steps in order to prevent any needless casualties. Every door locks, every light is turned off, and every sound stops. A gunman will usually shoot at anything he sees moving. Locking down will buy time for the authorities to arrive. Windows on each door should be covered, so the gunman won’t be able to see into the class. Practicing lock down drills will help prepare students for attacks which would possibly minimize some of the panic.
Taking time to communicate to students about how to act if such an event happened could also save lives. As scary as it is to imagine, if one student with a gun began to attack turning and running away would probably provoke the gunman into shooting you. Even though the gunman is armed, he is heavily outnumbered. If students took advantage of their sheer numerical advantage then causalities could be minimized.
Finally, the best way to make schools safer from this type of violence is prevention. This may be the most difficult method. The cause of these events usually boils down to a student with severe psychological issues becomes fed up with being a victim to bullying. Teachers and administrators will never be able to prevent every instance of bullying, however by spending a little time in the hall ways, by getting to know your students and making yourself available to them a teacher may build relationships with troubled teens and prevent a violent outburst. There is no single solution to prevent these horrific attacks, but building relationships one student at a time, especially with the students that seem like they don’t want a relationship, will eventually lead to a better and safer learning environment.