Many plans can help staff and children react when danger threatens them in school. However, there is no absolutely guaranteed way to prevent sudden deadly violence, such as what happened at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
The analogy would be to compare installing some kind of super inspection/safety program at schools to what has been done at airports since 9/11/01. As competent and tight as the experts have made airport check-ins, a determined suicide person or group can still easily penetrate all known defenses, human and electronic, and cause other similar disasters. This would also be true of any school violence situation, especially if the perpetrator is part of the same community.
The costs for airport security are enormous, and to set up similar safeguards in every school in the nation would be both a cost and logistics nightmare. While good security is always a plus, there is a basic difference in the source of the threats. Airport security looks for dangers coming from outside, in the form of well-trained terrorists.
Most of the school violence has come from inside, usually by students with histories of mental illness. Therefore, the basic safeguards for the children should be created to prevent home-grown attacks. The first task, and most difficult and legally sensitive, is to work with local mental health facilities and experts to set up systems to identify potentially violent people before they can act.
The Virginia State mass murderer had a long history of aberrant behavior, including providing graphic images, that could have been checked by treatment or confinement. Could he have been prevented from acting on his threats? No one will ever know. In such disasters, whether in schools or aboard airplanes, it is easy to second-guess how to prevent them after they happen. The only way to have any chance of stopping them in schools is to make everyone aware of when there is any chance of violence, no matter how minor it may seem.
Schools and parents have to work together to set up step-by-step systems of protecting students from sudden violence. Everyone involved should immediately report to law enforcement any threats and other symptoms they see or hear that come from members of the school body, or from outsiders who may hang out in the school neighborhood. Those potential killers must be removed for treatment, or when necessary, for confinement.
When the violence actually threatens to erupt, there should be specific steps everyone in the school knows to take to get away from it. The school officials must conduct regular exercises, such as fire drills, where students and staffs know exactly what to do and where to go in such emergencies. For younger children, a list of written disaster routines should go to their parents, with instructions to train each child in acting instinctively when danger strikes in the school.
As in airport security, there is no absolutely guaranteed way to protect children from all potential school violence. However, a well-trained child in a well-prepared school has a much better chance of avoiding it when it happens.