School security again takes center stage, after recent school shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and at Northern Arizona University.
Of the 295 mass shootings (defined as four or more people killed or injured by gunfire) in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2015, 46 of these took place in a school setting. Some sobering statistics tell the rest of the story — 381 killed and well over 1,000 injured in these mass shootings. “Experts” continue to debate issues such as background checks, gun-control laws, and mental health. All the while, school shootings continue nonstop. In a perfect world, guns would not be made available for these individuals responsible for these senseless tragedies. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Little did I know back in the 1970s, when I was preparing for a career in education, that schools would have to deal with such atrocities.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, Connecticut) shootings in December 2012, where 26 students and faculty were killed, changed the preparation for dealing with such an emergency. This was a state-of-the-art school with all the latest bells and whistles to protect their students and staff. The active shooter simply shot his way into the locked and “secured” doors. When the police arrived 14 minutes after the first shot was fired, the damage and carnage had been done.
With the Sandy Hook shooting being the main impetus, Sidney City Schools decided to do everything possible to protect our students and staff in the unlikely event of an active shooter entering our school buildings. I call this being proactive.
This is the third year of these security measures being in existence in the district. Thanks to Shelby County Sheriff, John Lenhart, and his staff, who have assisted SCS in preparing for such an emergency. This training for educators is one of the requirements for being part of the school’s First Responder Teams. Including armed and uniformed security officers in every school buildings, there are 39 First Responder Team members, consisting of both male and female educators. As the name implies, responding to an active shooter in the quickest possible time is our first priority. In our simulated active-shooter drills, within a matter of seconds we can respond to and actively engage the shooter. Research based on all recent school shootings indicates that every 17 seconds an active shooter kills or injures someone. Responding to such a threat within seconds instead of minutes will minimize deaths and injuries. All of our school buildings are equipped with camera/ buzzer systems on main entrance doors and surveillance cameras covering all hallways and entrances. Even such secured buildings will not stop an active shooter. This is precisely why SCS has put our training and resources into immediately responding to such an emergency. I wish we lived in a perfect world.
The writer is the superintendent of the Sidney City Schools.