In the wake of the 20th anniversary of school shooting in Columbine High School in Colorado last April and recent spate of gun violence in schools across the nation, school districts have had to institute additional school safety measures. School districts and law enforcement agencies have begun to work closely together to implement policies and school safety measures in schools nationwide. Many schools practice active shooter drills and have emergency response plans with local police.
Many schools have increased patrolling of schools by police officers. Several schools also place armed officers on their campus while school is in session. Because teachers are the first line of defense in a school shooter situation, some experts advocate arming teachers and training them in emergency response, handling and carrying guns. They argue that by the time the local police or armed officer on campus becomes aware of the active shooter, it may be too late.
Some school districts have opted for increased technological measures such as surveillance cameras, driver’s license scanners and metal detectors. Many schools have installed surveillance cameras that monitor the hallways and classrooms. In some areas, all visitors are made to scan their driver’s license upon entry and exiting the school. Visitors have to wear an ID tag that is printed after the driver’s license is scanned when they are on campus.
Various experts agree that though increased security measures are useful, intelligence gathering and sharing are critical. Schools have also tried to enhance information sharing between agencies and schools to create instantaneous lines of communications between agencies so that in the event of an emergency critical information can be shared immediately.
School districts are encouraged to hold district wide school safety meetings where all stake holders participate. Meetings include teachers, law enforcement officers, parents, PTAs, counselors, school psychologists and administrators so that information can be shared and all perspectives represented.
Detectives and law enforcement officers have a made a practice to visit schools in their district on a regular basis and cultivate relationships at these schools with teachers, students and staff. During these meetings, appointed officers can assess each school’s social climate and address issues of bullying, intimidation and harassment.
When detectives talk and collaborate with schools, they are more sensitive and aware of the well-being of the school and its students. Students often know students who are having social issues and tendency for violence. They also are first to know when a fellow student is planning a violent act. Officers can serve as mentors and role models to students. When police officers are able to win the student’s trust, it is easier for students to report issues to them.
School districts should make it easier for students to report issues. A confidential anonymous tip line where students can report any problems, issues or planned acts of violence is good way to stay on top of issues in the school and the individual actors. Students want to be able to anonymously report these issues without being implicated by their peers.
Our experienced educational law attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser represent many local schools, school districts, colleges and universities. To learn more about our services and what we can do for you, contact us online or call 484-318-7106. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Chester County from our office conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania.