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Preventing School Shootings: The Effectiveness of Safety Measures

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The tragedies at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook Elementary School catapulted concern about school shootings into the national spotlight. Calls for something to be done to protect our students, faculty, and staff became a salient concern for school administrators, with many schools hiring armed security officers, restricting access to campus buildings, installing metal detectors, and training individuals how to respond when a shooter enters school grounds. However, many of these security measures were implemented with little to no consultation of the empirical literature. This failure to enact evidence-based responses has had fiscal and latent consequences that are only now being discovered. This essay seeks to fill that void by examining the empirical evidence surrounding common security measures enacted in response to well-publicized school shootings and calling for the use of an evidence-based approach to school safety.
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Victims & Offenders
An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and
Practice
ISSN: 1556-4886 (Print) 1556-4991 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uvao20
Preventing School Shootings: The Effectiveness of
Safety Measures
Cheryl Lero Jonson
To cite this article: Cheryl Lero Jonson (2017) Preventing School Shootings: The Effectiveness of
Safety Measures, Victims & Offenders, 12:6, 956-973, DOI: 10.1080/15564886.2017.1307293
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2017.1307293
Published online: 24 Oct 2017.
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Preventing School Shootings: The Eectiveness of Safety
Measures
Cheryl Lero Jonson
Department of Criminal Justice, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
ABSTRACT
The tragedies at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and Sandy
Hook Elementary School catapulted concern about school shootings
into the national spotlight. Calls for something to be done to protect
our students, faculty, and stabecame a salient concern for school
administrators, with many schools hiring armed security ocers,
restricting access to campus buildings, installing metal detectors,
and training individuals how to respond when a shooter enters
school grounds. However, many of these security measures were
implemented with little to no consultation of the empirical literature.
This failure to enact evidence-based responses has had scal and
latent consequences that are only now being discovered. This essay
seeks to ll that void by examining the empirical evidence surround-
ing common security measures enacted in response to well-
publicized school shootings and calling for the use of an evidence-
based approach to school safety.
KEYWORDS
Active shooter response;
Columbine; lockdown; moral
panic; school shootings;
security; situational crime
prevention
On April 20, 1999, two high school seniors, dressed in black trench coats and armed with
handguns, a rie, shotguns, knives, and multiple propane pipe bombs, entered Columbine
High School and killed 12 students and one teacher while injuring many more (Erickson,
2001). Roughly eight years later to the day, on April 16, 2007, a senior at Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) carrying two handguns shot
and killed two students in a dormitory before walking across campus to a classroom
building and murdering 30 more students and ve professors (TriData Division, System
Planning Corporation, 2009). Five and a half years later, on the morning of December 14,
2012, a 20-year old man, encountering locked doors, shot out the plate glass window to
the right of the front entrance and entered Sandy Hook Elementary School. Wearing a
utility vest lled with ammunition and armed with a rie and two handguns, the gunman
killed 20 young children and six adults (Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, 2015).
Accounts like these have gripped American headlines for the past 17 years, and, while
there were multiple school shootings between 1999 and 2012, the brutality and the
signicant loss of life distinguish the attacks that occurred at Columbine High School,
Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook Elementary School (Mitchell, 2013). These three mass
shootingswhich resulted in a combined loss of 71 innocent livesriveted the country
and forever changed the educational landscape in the United States (Bonanno &
Levenson, 2014; Elsass, Schildkraut, & Staord, 2014; Fox & DeLateur, 2014). With the
CONTACT Cheryl Lero Jonson jonsonc@xavier.edu Xavier University, Department of Criminal Justice, 149 Cohen,
Cincinnati, OH 45207-7371, USA.
VICTIMS & OFFENDERS
2017, VOL. 12, NO. 6, 956973
https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2017.1307293
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
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incessant and widespread media attention of these events, schools no longer were viewed
as safe places where the primary concerns were learning mathematical principles and the
proper placement of a semicolon; instead, parents, teachers, and students alike were now
faced with the harsh reality that a traumatic event could happen to them (Garofoli, 2007;
Schildkraut, 2012; Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). No school was deemed safe, with shootings
occurring in high schools, university settings, and elementary schools.
As the media attention surrounding school shootings grew in scope and coverage, the
resulting fear and panic spread like wildre (Burns & Crawford, 1999; Fox & DeLateur,
2014; Mads, 2016). In the month that followed the Sandy Hook shooting, Americans
were glued to 24-hour television and internet news coverage, with over 90% of people
reporting they were following the developing story somewhat closely or very closely (Fox
& DeLateur, 2014; Saad, 2012). The New York Times alone published more than 130
newspaper articles about the shooting within that same 30 days (Elsass, Schildkraut, &
Staord, 2016; Schildkraut & Muschert, 2014). Much of that media coverage could be
characterized as sensational, with journalists declaring that the tragedy at Sandy Hook
just as was done with the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootingswas indicative of a
dramatic increase violence in schools in recent years (Altheide, 2009; Best, 2013; Birkland
& Lawrence, 2009; Cornell, 2006; Fox & DeLateur, 2014; Frymer, 2009; Muschert, 2007).
With the continual barrage of survivor and victim accounts, in-depth news stories,
video clips captured from the scene, magazine covers plastered with exclusive photos, and
dramatic front page headlines, fear about sending children to school spikes after each one
of these events (Mads, 2016; McCarthy, 2014). The largest increase was recorded after the
Columbine massacre, when 55% of parents reported that they feared for their eldest childs
safety at school. In the years following Columbine, parental fear slowly dissipated to about
20% but then ballooned to 35% following the Virginia Tech shooting. Again as the months
and years ticked by after Virginia Tech, fear dropped to 25%, intensifying to 33% in the
wake of Sandy Hook (McCarthy, 2014).
As a result of the nonstop media coverage of these events and the accompanying
perception that shootings at schools are increasing in both frequency and magnitude,
students, sta, faculty, parents, and communities alike have become increasingly
concerned about school safety (Fox & Savage, 2009;Mads, 2016; Muschert &
Peguero, 2010;Rocque,2012). Demands for the creation of emergency response
plans, mass notication systems, threat assessments, crisis teams, zero-tolerance
policies, metal detectors, access control measures, armed police on campus, bullying
prevention programs, armed teachers, and active shooter response plans have become
commonplace (Addington, 2009;Borum,Cornell,Modzeleski,&Jimerson,2010;Fox
& Savage, 2009; Hankin, Hertz, & Simon, 2011;Rocque,2012; Wang & Hutchins,
2010). Policymakers, legislators, and school administrators have sought to develop
policies and implement various measures to prevent a shooting from occurring in
their school. Each major event has resulted in calls to increase safety in their
respective schools and to assure individuals that their schooland their children
will not be the victims of the next Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook.
In that context, the goal of the present article is to describe and assess the eec-
tiveness of the various measures often implemented as a direct response to a well-
publicized school shooting. Many of these policies and procedures are employed
quickly and are based on the fear and misperception that school violence is spiraling
VICTIMS & OFFENDERS 957
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out of control (Burns & Crawford, 1999;Mads, 2016; Muschert & Mads, 2013;
Muschert & Peguero, 2010). First, the prevalence of and the accompanying moral
panic that surrounds these rare events is reviewed. Second, a description and evalua-
tion of the eectiveness of common preventative techniques, such as armed police,
access control measures, metal detectors, and active shooter responses for students,
sta, and faculty, is provided. It is important to understand that preventative measures
can and will fail at times. Locks can be broken, metal detectors can fail, and ocers
cannot be present everywhere at all times. Consequently, how students, sta, and
faculty are trained to respond if they nd themselves in an active killing situation
has emerged as an important response to preparing for a school shooting. A descrip-
tion and evaluation of two competing modelsforrespondingtoanactiveshooteris
examined in the third section. The essay concludes with a call for a rational dialogue
about school shootings in the United States and a movement towards evidence-based
approaches to preventing and responding to these horricevents.
School shootings and the corresponding moral panic
While these tragic events are newsworthy, the media portrayal that school rampages are
becoming epidemic and are an emergent social problem is awed (Burns & Crawford,
1999; Elsass et al., 2016; Muschert, 2007). Crime in the United States, and particularly in
schools, has been decreasing over time, including violent crimes occurring on school
grounds (Burns & Crawford, 1999; Elsass et al., 2014,2016; Fox & Burstein, 2010; Fox &
DeLateur, 2014; Fox & Fridel, 2016; Wike & Fraser, 2009; Zhang, Musu-Gillette, &
Oudekerk, 2016). Prior to Columbine, between the 1992 and 1997 academic years, the
number of people killed between the ages of 5 and 18 years old at school ranged from a
low of 28 in the 1994 and 1996 academic years to a high of 34 in the 1992 and 1997
academic years (Zhang et al., 2016). Over the course of the next 15 years, no
academic year would exceed a toll of 33 deaths, with eight academic years having less
than 20 total homicides (Zhang et al., 2016).
While the raw number of homicides occurring at school stayed relatively stable
and indicated slight decreases over time, that fact alone does not settle denitively
whether mass shootings have risen in recent years (Zhang et al., 2016). Estimating
the number of mass shootings is a complicated matter because, as explained by
Hu-Corzine et al. (2014), denitions used to classify a shooting as a mass shooting
vary based on the number of victims and geographical location aected (see also
Duwe, 2004). Denitions thus may range from at least two victims being killed
(Messing & Heeren, 2004) to four or more individuals killed in a single incident in
a single location (Fox & Fridel, 2016). Without a standard way to categorize these
events, arriving at a rm or agreed-upon number of mass shootings is not possible.
Dening a mass shooting as a multiple homicide incident in which four or more
victims are murdered with rearms, within one event, and in one or more locations in
close proximity,Krouse and Richardson (2015, p. i) examined the prevalence of mass
shootings between 1999 and 2013 in a report to the U.S. Congress. Including all shootings
across the United States that t that denition, they determined that the annual average of
mass shootings between 1999 and 2013 was 21. Taken by itself, this gure masks the
reality that most incidents fall into two main categories. Thus, of the 21 mass murders
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committed annually with rearms, the vast majority could be categorized either as
familicide, where the majority of the victims are members of the oenders family
(8.47), or as other felony mass shootings, which involve murders that are attributed to
criminal activity such as a robbery or assault (8.27). Less than a quarter of the annual mass
shootings (4.4) have occurred in a public place such as a workplace or school.
Re-evaluating Duwes(2007) research, which examined mass shootings from the 1970s,
Krouse and Richardson (2015) were able to determine trends in mass public shootings
over the last ve decades. Beginning in the 1970s, there was on average 1.1 mass public
shooting per year. This number increased to 2.7 in the 1980s, 4.0 in the 1990s, 4.1 in the
2000s, and 4.5 since 2010. Although the number of mass shootings more than tripled
between the 1970s and 1990s, the number has grown less steeply in recent decades and
does not reect the often-cited reports that mass shootings are increasing by unprece-
dented proportions since the tragedy occurring at Columbine High School in 1999.
Why is it, then, that the media portrayal of school shootings is so contrary to the
empirical evidence? Why do school shootings often result in demands for sweeping and
immediate changes to policies and increased safety protocols? Why has the publics
concern about mass shootings increased in recent years despite relative stability in these
types of events? One answer is absolutely the tragic nature of these oenses. These attacks
harm our children, who are dened by their innocence and naivety of the realities of a
harsh world (Altheide, 2002). They are just beginning their lives lled with hope and
promise. Their deathsparticularly in a school setting which is marked with learning the
alphabet, making art projects that hang on the refrigerator, conquering mathematical
equations, and preparing for the challenge of collegeseem especially unfair and horric.
However, school shootings are not a new phenomenon and have been occurring for
decades before Columbine.
Another answer to the extreme media interest in school shootings may be found in
Cohens(1972) work on moral panics, which occur when a condition, episode, person or
group of persons emerges to become dened as a threat to societal values and interest
(Cohen, 2004, p. 4). Cohen continued to explain that once someone or something is
dened as a threat, it becomes excessively portrayed by the media, often exaggerating the
magnitude of that particular threat. Due to the incessant attention, public concern and
fear grow and authority gures and policymakers respond to the publics outcry for action.
The moral panic concludes when either the panic recedes as time passes and the current
panic is replaced by a new threat or social changes are seen (see also Garland, 2008;
Killingbeck, 2001).
There have been many instances of moral panics throughout American history. In
1919, the passage of the 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacturing, transportation,
and sale of alcohol exemplies the fear that alcohol was leading to crime, corruption, and
other social ills during that time period (Sanneh, 2015). The hysteria about drug use,
particularly crack cocaine, in the 1970s and 1980s led to passage of harsh drug laws and
subsequently contributed the mass incarceration movement (Garland, 2008). The terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001 triggered a moral panic, with many repercussions felt
15 years later. In the months following the attacks, news headlines and politicians
continued to recount the events of that day and stressed the immediate danger facing
the United States. This fear resulted in the publics willingness to approve a war, the
creation of the Department of Homeland Security, amped up security measures at
VICTIMS & OFFENDERS 959
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airports, increased government spending on the military and subsequent cuts in spending
on social aid, led to the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act, and planted the seeds of an anti-
Islamic movement (Altheide, 2009; Muschert, 2007; Rothe & Muzzatti, 2004).
Just as each of these events triggered an increased discourse, concern, and demand for
action to remedy what was constructed as the emerging threat of the time, the shooting on
April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School sparked the moral panic surrounding mass
school shootings (Killingbeck, 2001). Despite shootings occurring at Pearl High School
(Pearl, Mississippi) and Heath High School (West Paducah, Kentucky) in 1997 and
Thurston High School (Springeld, Oregon) in 1998, media attention surrounding
Columbine was unique, shifting the focus from an isolated local event to a national threat
aecting our children and educational system (Altheide, 2009; Birkland & Lawrence, 2009;
Muschert, 2007). Unlike prior school shootings, Columbine was broadcast to millions,
with scenes of terried children eeing from the scene, SWAT ocers storming the
school, and bloodied victims running away or dangling outside of windows (Addington,
2009). The carnage was catapulted to the national spotlight (Elsass et al., 2016) with CNN
airing 6 hours of uninterrupted coverage that day (Muschert, 2002), network newscasts
perpetually covering the story for the next 30 days (Robinson, 2011), and the top 50 major
newspapers publishing over 10,000 articles in the following year (Newman, 2006).
While the early and mid-1990s was marked with fervent discussion of the rising of the
new juvenile superpredator (Bennett, DiIulio, & Walters, 1996; DiIulio, 1995), White
suburbanites felt protected and isolated from the threat of this new type of criminal
(Heitzeg, 2009). Superpredators were dened as particularly violent and dangerous, urban,
Black and Latino youth who were often associated with gangs and the crack cocaine
epidemic found in the inner city (Templeton, 1998). That world did not collide with
White middle-class to upper middle-class communities characterized by good schools, an
abundance of extracurricular activities, and safe neighborhoods. After Columbine, how-
ever, that facade was shattered and the fear of the superpredator invaded White suburban
neighborhoods (Frymer, 2009). The perception formed that nowhere was immune from
the relentless violence that was sweeping the nation, with White middle-class youth now
coming under attack (Frymer, 2009). With the merging of violence occurring in a wealthy
White high school and the excessive media attention that followed, the moral panic
surrounding school shootings was borne.
Something must be done: Situational approaches to preventing school
shoootings
Inspired by the moral panic and national outcry surrounding school shootings, appeals
that something must be done to protect our children became widespread (Addington,
2009; Burns & Crawford, 1999; Mads, 2016; Muschert & Peguero, 2010; Rocque, 2012).
Many of the responses to these mass shootings called for increased security measures and
surveillance to prevent guns and other weapons from entering the school, including armed
police ocers on campus, stricter access control measures, and metal detectors (Campus
Safety Magazine, 2010; Fox & DeLateur, 2014; Muschert & Peguero, 2010; Newman, Fox,
Roth, Mehta, & Harding, 2004; Rocque, 2012). In addition, the climate of the school also
was called into question, with the media often portraying the killers as individuals who
endured bullying and a hostile environment provoking them to lash out in a such a violent
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manner (Elsass et al., 2016; Fox & DeLateur, 2014; see in this issue Mears, Moon, &
Thielo, 2017). Corresponding calls to prevent bullying and make the school climate more
inclusive and diverse were promoted. Furthermore, a lack of communication, both during
the event (through mass notication systems alerting people of a shooting) and prior to
the event (the failure of people reporting suspicious activity or threats one they had seen
and heard), were blamed for the act being carried out in the rst place and the corre-
sponding high body counts that occurred as a result (Fox & Savage, 2009; Rocque, 2012).
Consequently, security measures focused on early notications and on easier and more
streamlined reporting of suspicious activities were embraced as a means to prevent such a
devastating event from occurring again.
Most of the responses that emerged can be placed into a situational crime prevention
framework, a perspective based on routine activities theory, rational choice theory, and
crime pattern theory. According to Clarke (1983):
Situational crime prevention can be characterized as comprising measures (1) directed at
highly specic forms of crime (2) that involve the management, design, or manipulation of
the immediate environment in as systematic and permanent a way as possible (3) so as to
reduce the opportunities for crime and increase the risks as perceived by a wide range of
oenders. (p. 225)
Acknowledging that oenders make rational choices based on the opportunities avail-
able to them when deciding whether or not to commit criminal acts, early situational
crime prevention approaches sought to alter and remove criminal opportunities as well as
to increase the likelihood of apprehension when engaging in such behavior. In this regard,
educational administrators have most often adopted three situational-prevention techni-
ques to reduce school shootings. These include (a) the use of armed police ocers within
schools to strengthen formal surveillance; (b) locking and monitoring buildings as well as
metal detectors to control access to facilities; and (c) active shooter responses for students,
sta, and faculty as way of hardening the target (see Cornish & Clarke, 2003).
Subsequently, the use of police ocers and of forms of access control (including a special
discussion of metal detectors) is presented. The following section then reviews dierent
approaches to limiting the threat posed by an active shooter on school grounds.
Armed police ocers and school resource ocers: Policing our schools
Many of the responses to school shootings are based in situational crime prevention
theory and thus would be expected to reduce such events in the future. In general,
however, the evaluations of these measures show that they often have little to no eect
on crime occurring at school and at times can increase fear and anxiety within the school
setting (Addington, 2009; Birkland & Lawrence, 2009; Greene, 2005; Hankin et al., 2011;
Hirscheld, 2008).
A common security measure implemented is the use of private security or school
resource ocers (SROs), who are often times armed. It seems logical that SROs will
reduce incidents because an ocer in the school can be a deterring presence or, if
necessary, respond immediately to a crisis. Given this strategys intuitive appeal, it is not
surprising that the number of schools employing uniformed ocers has skyrocketed in
recent years, from only 13% in 1994 to over 51% 2014 (Addington, 2009; Centers for
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Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Further nancial incentive has been provided by
the Department of Justice, which oered over $745 million dollars in grant money to train
and hire SROs, leading many schools to adopt this as a primary response to mass school
shootings (Addington, 2009; James & McCallion, 2013; Travis & Coon, 2005). Notably,
because little empirical evidence was available, schools embarked on this initiative una-
ware of its eectiveness (Birkland & Lawrence, 2009; Greene, 2005). This failure to seek
evidence-based approaches to school safety is particularly alarming because, compared to
other security measures, armed ocers are a substantial scal responsibility for the school
district (Addington, 2009).
In fact, recent research reveals a complicated picture regarding the eectiveness of
SROs (James & McCallion, 2013). Research has shown that schools with SROs are more
likely to have their school grounds patrolled, have more formal responses to crime reports
from students and teachers, have a developed emergency response plan, and conduct risk
assessments (Travis & Coon, 2005). Further, in a survey of three large schools, McDevitt
and Panniello (2005) found that when students had a positive view of the SRO, they were
more likely to report a crime or threat and were more likely to feel safe at school. This
nding suggests, however, that this benet will be achieved only when the students respect
and feel comfortable with their SRO. Simply placing ocers in a school who adopt a
traditional law and order role, for example, may prove counterproductive. Instead, SROs
must create a positive environment and build relationships with the students in order to
achieve crime reduction capabilities (McDevitt & Panniello, 2005). Indeed, in some
schools, students, faculty, and stahave expressed that the presence of ocers led to
the perception that schools are unsafe places (Bachman, Randolph, & Brown, 2011; Travis
& Coon, 2005). The respondents warned that the militarization of the school and the need
to have armed ocers present may result in students feeling more fearful rather than safe
during the school day (Bachman et al., 2011).
The key policy issue, however, is whether SROs reduce school crime. To that point, few
studies have examined the role of SROs in reducing crime in the school, with no study
assessing the preventative capabilities of an SRO with mass school shootings (James &
McCallion, 2013). Research testing the link between SROs and crime or victimization have
yielded mixed results. Some studies have shown that SROs do not have a substantial eect
on reporting being a victim (Tillyer, Fisher, & Wilcox, 2011) or on reports of serious
violent, nonserious violent, or property crime (Na & Gottfredson, 2013; Swartz, Osborne,
Dawson-Edwards, & Higgins, 2016). One study, however, found that having an SRO was
associated with a decline in the number of reported serious violent crimes (Jennings,
Khey, Maskaly, & Donner, 2011). One possibility for the diverse ndings is that SROs play
dierent roles in dierent schools. In some places, they are solely a disciplinarian, while in
others they perform more service-oriented functions (Mads, 2016). As was suggested by
McDevitt and Panniellos(2005) research, the perception of the ocer can lead to
dierent outcomes concerning reporting crime and feelings of safety. Thus, with the
current state of the research, the true eect of SROs remains inconclusive.
Further, as Mads(2016) explained, it is important to note that two of the deadliest
school shootingsColumbine and Virginia Techwere not deterred by the presence of
armed police. In 1999, Columbine High School had both an armed SRO and an unarmed
school security guard. During the shooting, one of the killers exchanged multiple rounds
of gunre with the SRO then proceeded to murder students in the library (Erickson,
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2001). The morning of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, ve ocers plus the police chief were
present on campus (TriData Division, System Planning Corporation, 2009). The killer at
Virginia Tech was familiar with the police, having had a previous encounter with them
ve months prior to the shooting. All three killers involved in these two cases were well-
aware of the armed ocers present on their respective campuses, yet in neither instance
did that deter them from carrying out their crime. Although anecdotal, these cases cast
doubt on the extent that SROs on campus can prevent a mass shooting or decrease the
fatalities associated with such an event (Mads, 2014).
Access control: Keeping the bad guyout
Although SROs are often the go-to response after mass shootings, it can take weeks, months,
and possibility a year for the school board approve the hiring and associated salary of a full-
time, permanent security ocer. A more immediate and economical response is to tighten
the access control of the school facility. Access control can include a variety of measures
including locking the doors, screening visitors by having them sign in, requiring identica-
tion badges for students and/or sta, among other measures to monitor who is entering and
leaving the school grounds (Addington, 2009; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
2015; Zhang et al., 2016). Due its relative ease to implement, this preventative measure is the
most common response to school shootings (Fox & DeLateur, 2014; Lassiter & Perry, 2009;
Zhang et al., 2016). For example, in a 2000 survey of all public middle and high schools, half
of all schools reported they lock and monitor their doors, with 96% of the schools with
access control measures stating they had done so in response to highly publicized school
crimes (Snell, Bailey, Carona, & Mebane, 2002; see also Addington, 2009). By 2014, after the
shootings of Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings, the percentage of schools locking
and monitoring doors grew substantially, with over 90% employing these measures (Centers
for Disease Control, 2015).
In 2008, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities provided guidelines for
eective access control for schools. The single most important consideration was that the
main building should have locked entry points, where entrance by students, sta, faculty,
and visitors can only be gained though ID cards, coded entry panels, or approval by
supervised sta. In addition to amplifying security measures at the main entry, it was also
recommended that schools limit the number of side exterior doors, ensure that the
majority of doors only have the ability to be opened from the inside, and have breakage
resistant tempered glass in doors where glass is desired (National Clearinghouse for
Educational Facilities, 2008). All of these strategies seek to monitor and allow only those
who have a legitimate purpose to be in the building, while restricting the entry of those
not associated with the functioning of the school.
Similar to the rapid implementation of SROs, schools immediately began to expand the
use of access control measures in response to the fear of the next mass school shooting
(Fox & DeLateur, 2014; Lassiter & Perry, 2009; Snell et al., 2002; Zhang et al., 2016). They
did so with little regard to whether these measures were eective in reducing crime and
potentially mass shootings (Addington, 2009). Two studies, however, are relevant to this
issue. First, in a national study of 954 high schools, Jennings et al. (2011) sought the
determine the eectiveness of a variety of school security measures, including access
control measures and outsider identication measures, in reducing serious violent (rape,
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strong armed and armed robbery, sexual battery, aggravated assault with a weapon, and
threats of aggravated assault) and violent (incidents not involving a weapon) crime
occurring at school. They discovered that few security measures had any preventative
eect, and, in particular, access control measures and outsider identication measures had
no signicant eect on either violent or serious violent crimes. Second, examining data
from the School Crime Supplement of the 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey,
Bachman et al. (2011) examined the relationship between school security measures and
fear among White and African American students. Locked doors did not have an eect
regardless of race. Little evidence exists, therefore, that access control creates either actual
or perceived safety in schools.
Notably, no study has examined the eect of implementing these measures in reducing
a school shooting. Anecdotally, however, access control measures have not been eective
in school shooting incidents (Fox & Burstein, 2010; Rocque, 2012). The stubborn reality is
that the majority of school shooters are students, faculty, or staof the school who have
the proper identication to gain entry to the grounds (Rocque, 2012). For example, the
Columbine and Virginia Tech shooters were students at the school, thus they had
legitimate access to school grounds (Erickson, 2001; TriData Division, System Planning
Corporation, 2009). Even in the rare case where an outsider comes to the school to cause
harm, access control measures often fail. Although the doors at Sandy Hook Elementary
were locked, the shooter was able to breach this access control measure by shooting out
the window adjacent to the door and making entry into the building (Sandy Hook
Advisory Commission, 2015).
In addition, access control measures are often easily bypassed by those who are
determined to carry out a shooting at school. For example, at Westside Middle School
(Jonesboro, Arkansas), the 11- and 13-year old shooters, avoided all access control
measures by pulling the re alarm, running to a nearby wooded area, and shooting
their classmates and teachers as they left the school. They killed four students, one teacher,
and wounded 10 others (Fox & DeLateur, 2014).
Metal detectors: No guns allowed
Metal detectors serve a single purpose: to prevent the admittance of weapons, particu-
larly guns, into the school (Hankin et al., 2011). Traditionally, metal detectors have
been limited to urban, inner-city schools (Hirscheld, 2008; Vera Institute of Justice,
1999), but in light of the fear surrounding recent school shootings, they are now a
visible school security measure in suburban area schools (Addington, 2009). Metal
detectors, however, have not been implemented nearly as often as SROs and other
access control measures, in large part because the costs can be highly prohibitive to the
school (Hankin et al., 2011; Jennings et al., 2011; Snell et al., 2002; Zhang et al., 2016).
According to Addington (2009), roughly 10% of schools had their students pass
through a metal detector on a daily basis to prevent weapons from entering school
buildings. To lower costs, some school systems have opted to utilize random metal
detector checks. In the 20132014 academic year, 8.7% of high schools used this
strategy to dissuade students from bringing rearms or other weapons into their
buildings (Zhang et al., 2016).
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So, the question becomes: Are metal detectors worth the high price tag to keep our
schools safe? Although research on the topic is not extensive, some studies do show a
benecial eect of metal detectors (Birkland & Lawrence, 2009; Hankin et al., 2011). In a
sample of New York City Public Schools, Ginsberg and Loredo (1993) discovered a
deterrent eect, with students reporting they were less likely to carry a weapon into school
when a metal detector was present. In Chicago, metal detectors prevented 294 weapons, 15
of which were guns, from entering schools (Johnson, 2000). Further, metal detectors tend
to be perceived as an eective school security measure. When asking school safety
administrators if metal detectors were eective in reducing violent crime, Garcia (2003)
found that 32% of the respondents found them to be somewhat or very eective and 55%
found them to be at least somewhat eective (see also Hankin et al., 2011).
Although metal detectors appear to have some deterrent eect, there are two consid-
erations that school ocials must bear in mind when determining if this is the correct
response to mass school shootings. First, the installation of metal detectors may have
unanticipated eects such as increasing studentsperceptions of fear and disorder within
the school (Hankin et al., 2011; Mayer & Leone, 1999). In particular, the presence of metal
detectors has contributed to the criminalization of the school system (Hirscheld, 2008;
Kupchik, 2009). Commentators worry that metal detectors, armed SROs, and access
control measures have transformed the school from a warm nurturing environment into
a prisonlike setting focused on harsh discipline and increased security (Dohrn, 2002). In
these types of environments, studentsperceptions of trust and caring often decline, while
perceptions that the school is unsafe increase substantially (Hankin et al., 2011;
Hirscheld, 2008; Kupchik, 2010).
Second, metal detectors do not completely eliminate students from bringing weapons
into a school or deter all students. Although Ginsberg and Loredo (1993) found that
metal detectors reduced the percentage of students who said they would carry a weapon to
school by roughly half, 7.6% were not deterred and indicated they would bring a weapon
despite the metal detectors (see also Hankin et al., 2011). Therefore, simply having a metal
detector will not stop all guns from entering schools and potentially causing harm.
Unfortunately, history provides a clear example of this reality. In 2005, a 16-year-old
student shot and killed his grandfather, who was a police ocer, and his grandfathers
girlfriend. He then traveled to Red Lake Senior High School (Red Lake, Minnesota) where
he killed an unarmed security guard, passed through a metal detector, and continued to
murder a teacher and ve students before committing suicide (Heelnger, 2006;
Langman, 2013). The presence of a metal detector did not deter this individual from
bringing a gun to school or prohibit his entry into the building. He was able to easily
bypass this device and kill seven individuals inside the school, rendering the metal
detector useless in preventing a gun from entering the school in this situation
(Heelnger, 2006; Langman, 2013).
When all else fails: How to survive a school shooting
Armed police ocers on campus, limiting who can gain access to school buildings, and
the installation of metal detectors are typical responses to ease fears and increase security
after a mass school shooting. They are all common sense measures with intuitive appeal
and seem to be rational ways to create a safer school environment. Each one of these
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security measures, however, can and has failed in the past. Schools must recognize that
many of the hard security measures put into place will not completely eliminate the threat
of a school shooter. In fact, total dependence on these measures places our children at a
grave risk should an individual ever come to their school motivated to inict harm
(Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2004). SROs cannot be all places at all
times, access control measures are not impenetrable, and metal detectors are able to be
bypassed (Langman, 2013). Therefore, it is imperative that students, faculty, and staare
trained on how to react to and survive when a mass shooting incident unfolds in their
environment.
Two schools of thought surround the question of how individuals should respond if
they nd themselves in the midst of a school shooting. One approach is referred to as
traditional lockdown (Trump, 2011). This approach typically involves instructing indivi-
duals to lock interior doors, turn olights, stay low to the ground, move to a corner of a
room away from the door and windows, and remain silent until the police arrive on scene
(Trump, 2011; see also Jonson, Moon, & Hendry, 2017). The second school of thought,
multi-option responses, builds on traditional lockdown by providing more options to
individuals when encountering a school shooter (Jonson et al., 2017). Proponents of
multi-option responses argue that the traditional lockdown response to shooters does
not adequately prepare individuals for the complexities of a school shooting (A.L.i.C.E.
Training Institute, 2014; International Association of Chiefs of Police & Bureau of Justice
Assistance, 2009; Ohio Attorney General School Safety Task Force, 2013; U.S. Department
of Homeland Security, 2008).
School shootings do not always occur in places or during times where traditional
lockdown protocols can be easily enacted. For example, the Columbine shooting occurred
when many students were in the cafeteria and the library. It is dicult to rely solely on
traditional lockdown procedures in these types of open spaces because there are multiple
entry points and large windows that can be easily shot out (Erickson, 2001). At Red Lake
Senior High School, the classrooms went into a traditional lockdown when the shooter
made it past the metal detectors and into the school. But, unfortunately, there was a glass
sidelight next to the door that the shooter shot out, breaching the traditional lockdown
and making entry into the classroom, killing six people inside (Heelnger, 2006). In
addition, there will always be a rst room attacked by the shooter, rendering traditional
lockdown an impossible response to the situation. Informed with the lessons learned from
prior school shootings, multi-option responses seek to provide more than one procedure
besides the traditional locking the door and remaining quiet response to increase the
survivability of individuals that are tragically involved in active shooting events.
While a number of agencies have created their own version of a multi-option response
program with their own unique terminology (e.g., Run, Hide, Fight; Avoid, Deny, Defend;
Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), they all include three core concepts: (a)
leaving the scene of the shooting, (b) locking down and barricading, and (c) actively
resisting the shooter (see also ALEERT Center, 2004; A.L.i.C.E. Training Institute, 2014;
Jonson et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008). First, each program
recommends that if it can be done safely, individuals should leave the scene of the
shooting. Just as people are instructed to leave a building if there is a re, individuals in
active shooting incidents are given the option to run from the danger. Multi-option
response proponents argue that eeing the scene and not encountering the active gunman
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is a best case scenario if that option is available to an individual (ALEERT Center, 2004;
A.L.i.C.E. Training Institute, 2014; Jonson et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, 2008).
If evacuating the building is not a viable option due to the shooter being close by or
physical obstructions to eeing, multi-option response proponents recommend locking
down and barricading the room. Unlike the traditional lockdown approach that recom-
mends individuals rely solely on locking the door, multi-option responses add the act of
barricading the room. Barricades can be formed with objects found in the immediate
environment such as tables, desks, shelves, and chairs. The goal is to make the room a
hard target and to prevent access into the room by the shooter. It is important to note that
the barricades do not have to hold for an extended period of time, such as hours or days,
because most mass shootings (69%) end in less than 5 minutes (Blair & Schweit, 2014).
Rather, the barricade is intended to have the school shooter move past the room, thereby
saving the lives of those inside (ALEERT Center, 2004; A.L.i.C.E. Training Institute, 2014;
Jonson et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008).
Finally, and most controversially, multi-option response programs instruct individuals to
actively resist a shooter if no other option is available and they come face-to-face with a
gunman. This prevention strategy might include throwing readily available objects (e.g.,
books, chairs) at the shooter to distract the perpetrator and disrupt his or her aim. Or it
might include swarming the gunman or otherwise ghting back to subdue the shooter and
render him or her incapable of continuing the ongoing rampage (ALEERT Center, 2004;A.L.i.
C.E. Training Institute, 2014; Jonson et al., 2017; U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
2008). This option isa worst-case scenario response that may be employed when either eeing
the scene or barricading inside a room are not viable possibilities. However,active resistance is
a crucial piece missing in traditional lockdown approaches. In every shooting, there will be
one room or one set of victims in which theshooting begins. Individuals in this situation often
do not have the ability to ee the gunman or to lockdown and barricade a room since the
shooter has already made entry. This option provides these individuals with a response that
can increase their likelihood of surviving an encounter with a gunman.
Although many schools have enacted a variation of one of these programs, the research
examining the eectiveness of both traditional lockdown and multi-option responses is
severely lacking (Zhang et al., 2016). However, some information about the eectiveness
of each approach can be gleaned by examining prior school shootings (Erickson, 2001;
Jonson et al., 2017; Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, 2015; TriData Division, System
Planning Corporation, 2009). At both Columbine and Sandy Hook, the majority of
fatalities occurred with students taking a passive response either by being huddled in
corners or by hiding under tables when the shooter entered the room (Erickson, 2001;
Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, 2015). Very few students evacuated even though the
option to ee was readily available, and no one fought back against the assailants.
However, the Virginia Tech shooting oers a unique perspective because the shooter
attempted to enter ve classrooms during his rampage, with the various rooms responding
in a dierent manner (TriData Division, System Planning Corporation, 2009). And,
although not a traditional research study, Virginia Tech can be viewed as a sort of natural
experimentcomparing the eectiveness of the more passive traditional lockdown
approach compared to the more active multi-option response approach to school shoot-
ings (Jonson et al., 2017).
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In the two classrooms that took a more passive approachnot utilizing barricade,
evacuation, or active resistance measuresthe number of lives lost and injured was
tragically high (36 individuals present with 22 killed and eight injured). By contrast, the
three rooms at Virginia Tech in which the various options advocated in multi-option
response programs were enacted experienced fewer fatalities and injuries (44 present with
seven killed and nine wounded). In each of the three rooms, a barricade was created when
those inside used their feet, hands, or bodies. In one room, students laid on the oor and
used their feet to hold the door shut. The shooter never made entry, and no one was killed
or injured in that classroom. In a second room, after taking a passive response during the
shootersrst entry into their classroom, a young man and young woman barricaded the
door with their bodies and hands, keeping the shooter from re-entering their room. Of the
13 students in that classroom, ve were killed and six were injured the rst time the
shooter made entry in the room, whereas no one was harmed thereafter. In the third
room, a professor placed his body in front of the door as he directed his students to
evacuate the room by jumping out of the second-story window. There were two people
killed in that classroom, the professor who was shot through the door and a student who
was making her way to the window to jump (TriData Division, System Planning
Corporation, 2009).
Thus, the Virginia Tech shooting shows that when individuals take a more active multi-
option response approach to shootings, they appear to have a higher likelihood of
surviving such an incident. And, if placed into a situational crime prevention approach,
the reasons why become clear. Unlike traditional lockdown approaches, multi-option
responses with barricading, evacuating, and active resisting make potential victims harder
targets for oenders to victimize (Cornish & Clarke, 2003). Potential victims become hard,
dynamic targets for the shooter, rather than passive, static targets (A.L.i.C.E. Training
Institute, 2014). In essence, individuals are making it more dicult for the shooter to have
the opportunity to kill them. Multi-option response approaches increase the eort needed
for oenders to achieve their goal, rather than having potential victims huddle together in
a corner behind a locked door, giving the oender little to no active resistance as
advocated in traditional lockdown approaches.
Conclusion: Taking school safety seriously
Although rare occurrences, school shootings are a reality in todays world. They are tragic
events that attack the most innocent of victims in a place where safety should be
guaranteed. The publics outcry and their corresponding calls that something must be
done in the aftermath of one of these incidents are quite understandable (Addington,
2009; Burns & Crawford, 1999; Mads, 2016; Muschert & Peguero, 2010; Rocque, 2012).
However, it is imperative that school administrators do not respond to such calls in a rash,
emotionally laden manner and instead make informed, rational decisions fully under-
standing of the consequences of their decisions.
As was reviewed, many of the security measures that were immediately enacted after well-
publicized school shootings were done so without any consultation of the empirical evidence
(Addington, 2009; Birkland & Lawrence, 2009). And, even 17 years after the rst major
school shooting to make national headlines, the research examining the eectiveness of these
measures is still lacking. School security is an expensive endeavor. For example, the hiring of
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SROs and the installation of metal detectors can be cost-prohibitive and force schools to
make cuts in other areas more central to the educational mission of the school system, such
as the hiring of more teachers, purchasing various forms of technology, and enhancing
extracurricular activities (Hankin et al., 2011). Without knowledge of their true eects, it is
scally, if not educationally, irresponsible for schools to invest in these security measures at
the detriment of addressing the learning needs of their students.
Demand for evidence-based practices and policies can be seen in a variety of elds ranging
from medicine to policing to corrections (MacKenzie, 2000; Sackett, Rosenberg, Gray,
Haynes, & Richardson, 1996;Sherman,1998). In all these elds, the importance of making
informed decisions based in the empirical evidence is stressed (Cullen, Myer, & Latessa,
2009). Concerning school security, having school administrators engage in this type of
decision making would be benecial. Schools would be better able to allocate their limited
budgets by investing only in measures that do, in fact, keep their students, sta, and faculty
safe. Additionally, any iatrogenic eects that could arise from the security measure could be
identied and addressed, as in the case of SROs and metal detectors (Bachman et al., 2011;
Hankin et al., 2011;Hirscheld, 2008; Kupchik, 2010; Travis & Coon, 2005).
Fortunately, school shootings are not increasing at epidemic proportions as often
portrayed in the media (Burns & Crawford, 1999; Elsass et al., 2016; Muschert, 2007).
This fact, of course, does not mean that schools should not institute measures shown to
deter these incidents from occurring or, in particular, not use programs to train school
personnel and students on how to survive such an event. But administrators do need to
avoid rash decisions that result in the implementation of ineective and potentially
counterproductive measures just to do something in the wake of a shooting. Taking
school security safely seriously requires school ocials rely on an evidence-based
approach to develop policies and procedures that will not only keep our schools safe
but also maintain an environment conducive to learning. The lives of our students, sta,
and faculty merit this investment.
Acknowledgments
The author thanks Joe Hendry for his expertise and guidance on this article.
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... Underlying the need to blame something as the cause of these school shootings is the desire to prevent this from occurring somewhere else (Jonson, 2017;Schildkraut & Hernandez, 2014). And, this blame game not only exists in the towns and cities victimized by these tragedies but also occurs across the country as the reverberations of these incidents extend well beyond the communities in which they took place (Lowe & Galea, 2015;Peterson & Densley, 2020). ...
... Using a nationwide sample of 739 individuals, we examine five categories of school shooting causes: gun-related, security-related, societal-related, mental health-related, and bullying. With younger generations living in an "age of school shootings," their time within the schoolhouse has been markedly different than their parents' and grandparents,' with active shooter and lockdown drills, metal detectors, access control measures, and armed security becoming the norm (Interlandi, 2018;Jonson, 2017;Jonson et al., 2021). Thus, it is quite possible these differing educational experiences could influence their beliefs about the causes of school shootings. ...
... However, the fortification of schools has not prevented all school shootings. Although increased security measures have been credited with averting some school shootings (Silva, 2021;Silva & Greene-Colozzi, 2021), there also have been instances where access control measures have been breached (e.g., Sandy Hook Elementary), metal detectors bypassed (Red Lake High School), and shootings occurred despite having an SRO (MSD) (Jonson, 2017;Madfis, 2016;Peterson et al., 2021). Adding to the challenge of securing the school, the increased presence of surveillance measures within our nation's schoolhouses has had the unintended consequence of some students feeling more fearful and greater numbers of students, particularly students of color, being arrested and/or punished with exclusionary discipline (Hirschfield, 2008;Homer & Fisher, 2020;Payne & Welch, 2015). ...
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Following a school shooting, the public and media search to understand what factors led to such tragedy. Faced with grief, fear, and confusion, people often seek to make sense of traumatic events. As such, this study uses a 2020 Amazon Mechanical Turk survey ( N = 739) to examine the impact of generational cohort on the blameworthiness of various perceived causes of school shootings. Findings support some generational differences. Baby Boomers were more likely to believe in societal-related causes of school shootings compared to Millennials and Generation Z. Conversely, Millennials and Generation Z were more likely than Baby Boomers to attribute the cause of school shootings to bullying, mental health, and school security. These findings suggest that future school shooting policies will seek to address bullying, mental health, and school security, while policies surrounding societal factors may be phased out.
... High-profile incidents of lethal violence in American schools, for example, are not in short supply. Indeed, mass school shootings have established names like Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as permanent parts of the American violence landscape (Cullen, 2009;Fridel, 2021;Jonson, 2017). And as tragic as these events were, they represent only a portion of the several hundred deadly shootings that have occurred in schools in the United States since 1970 (CHDS K-12 School Shooting Database, 2020). ...
... The logic behind doing so comes from deterrence and routine activity theories, which assume that such security measures should deter youths from victimizing others by increasing guardianship and increasing the perceived risks of apprehension and punishment (Hollis et al., 2013). But the sources of school violence are more complex than what can be targeted through the use of visible security measures alone (Jonson, 2017;Kupchik, 2016;Tanner-Smith et al., 2018). We caution, therefore, against viewing the target hardening of schools as sufficient for addressing school violence. ...
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School violence is a significant social concern. To better understand its sources, a comprehensive meta-analysis of the school violence and victimization literature was undertaken. Across 761 studies, the relative effects of 30 different individual, school, and community level correlates were assessed (8,790 effect size estimates). Violence and victimization were conceptualized broadly to include various forms of aggression and crime at school. The results revealed that the strongest correlates of school violence perpetration were antisocial behavior, deviant peers, antisocial attitudes, victimization, and peer rejection; and that the strongest correlates of school victimization were prior/other victimization, social competence, risk avoidance, antisocial behavior, and peer rejection. Extracurricular activities and school security devices had among the weakest associations in the meta-analysis, and several traditional criminological predictors did not perform well in the school context. We conclude with recommendations for theory, future research, and policy.
... The use of threat assessment procedures in schools have been shown to improve school climate and willingness to report potential violence (Cornell et al., 2009). The conceptual foundations for threat assessment interventions are based on the premise of enhancing the school climate and maintaining physically and emotionally safe environments (Jonson, 2017). Incorporation of threat assessment procedures have also resulted in a decrease in school suspensions (Cornell et al., 2012;Cornell & Lovegrove, 2015;Maeng et al., 2020) and alternative school placements Cornell et al., 2012). ...
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While gun violence has been declared a public health crisis, there is limited information concerning stakeholders such as parents’ perceptions of acceptable procedures to prevent this violence in schools. This study explored 114 parents’ degree of acceptance for an assortment of school shooting prevention interventions. Specifically, this study compared security measures, threat assessment, zero tolerance, and an exploratory procedure. While all procedures were deemed acceptable, parents rated the threat assessment as most acceptable, followed closely by security measures, which were significantly more acceptable than the exploratory procedure, and finally the zero tolerance procedures. Discussion is provided on possible factors influencing the acceptance of these procedures.
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Having police officers in schools (school resource officers ‐ SROs) is controversial with a growing debate as their presence has proliferated nationally over the past twenty years. A majority of high schools and middle schools today have police on campus providing a variety of services, though primarily law enforcement. While the intent is to provide improved school safety and protection to students, unexpectedly this has not been the outcome for many school campuses when reviewing most criminal activity or, tragically, school shootings. While the presence of SROs is complicated, the unintended impact has harmed more students than ever anticipated by criminalizing misbehaviors and disorderly conduct, making the learning environment less conducive by negatively changing school climates, and disproportionately impacting many already at‐risk young people – those of color, those with disabilities, and those who identify as LGBTQ. While recent Black Lives Matter movement advocacy has removed SROs from a small number of school districts across the country, additional change looks to be quite difficult even though ongoing research continues to find disparate and unexpected negative student, school, and justice system pathway outcomes, while not making schools safer. This paper reviews this empirical, practice, and policy conundrum, and the impact on the juvenile courts.
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Lockdown drills are used in pre‐K–12 public schools throughout the country; however, little research exists regarding their impact on students and school staff (Ilk, 2018). Because of school counselors' role in both prevention of and response to school gun violence (American Counseling Association, 2018), we used a phenomenological approach to investigate their experiences with lockdown drills (N = 26). Results included the following three themes: (a) school counselors' sense of duty to follow school protocol, (b) unintended emotional consequences related to lockdown drills, and (c) school counselors navigating complexities. Implications for school counselors and corresponding school procedures are discussed.
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Mass public shootings have drawn considerable attention from the public, policymakers, and researchers, yet despite what is known about these events, assessments to date have failed to consider their timing as a function of the locations where they occur. Using data on 401 U.S. mass public shootings occurring between 1966 and 2020, we examine these events’ temporal patterns. The findings suggest that the occurrence of mass public shootings may not be as random as once assumed but instead mirror the routine activities of the perpetrators, their victims, and the shootings’ locations. Considerations for prevention and response policies also are offered.
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Mass school shootings in America are undoubtedly among the most unsettling and tragic events that have occurred in modern history. Following such an event, questions often arise about characteristics of the perpetrator. Assertions and speculation regarding the mental health status or special education disability status, specifically related to emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), flood media outlets and popular news sources. However, there are no data to suggest that children or youth with EBD pose a greater risk of committing a mass school shooting than do others. In this paper, we discuss assumptions related to mass school shootings and students with EBD and consider efforts for prevention and intervention. We discuss detrimental effects of a zero-tolerance approach, especially for students with EBD, and the use of threat assessment as a more effective, research-based model of prevention. We highlight in particular the potential benefits of a threat assessment model for students with or at risk for EBD. Finally, we discuss the need for future research to critically examine the effectiveness and potential side effects of lockdown drills and limitations on federally funded firearm research.
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Chapter
Having police officers in schools (school resource officers – SROs) is controversial with a growing debate as their presence has proliferated nationally over the past 20 years. A majority of high schools and middle schools today have police on campus providing a variety of services, though primarily law enforcement. While the intent is to provide improved school safety and protection to students, unexpectedly this has not been the outcome for many school campuses when reviewing most criminal activity and school shootings. While the presence of SROs is complicated, the unintended impact has harmed more students than anticipated by criminalizing misbehaviors and disorderly conduct, making the learning environment less conducive by negatively changing school climates and disproportionately impacting many already at-risk young people.
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Although school violence statistics indicate that schools are safe places, anxiety over school shootings continues to influence school safety reform to the extent that security measures in American public schools include the arming of schoolteachers. Furthermore, not only have youths’ perceptions of school security been relatively unexplored, existing research points to racial inequalities in the use of and the effects of school security practices. This study uses data from high school students across multiple school districts in a Midwestern county to examine how race and perceptions of fairness intersect to influence attitudes on arming teachers. The results suggest that, relative to White students, Black students are less supportive of arming teachers and anticipate greater decreases in safety if teachers are armed. In addition, perceptions of fairness mediate the effect of race on support and feelings of safety. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
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Full-text available
After the Columbine school shooting in 1999, concern about bullying crescendoed. A prominent belief emerged that bullying causes school shootings. However, many of the beliefs about bullying constitute myths—that is, empirically unverified assumptions. These beliefs ignore critical conceptual issues that attend to efforts to understand the bullying–school shootings connection. In so doing, they likely inhibit progress toward a more accurate understanding of the causes of school shootings and what can be done to prevent them. The authors present this argument and identify recommendations for research and policy.
Research
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This report covers topics such as victimization, teacher injury, bullying and cyber-bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions. Indicators of crime and safety are compared across different population subgroups and over time. Data on crimes that occur away from school are offered as a point of comparison where available.
Book
Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence. Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved, but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community (Brookmeyer, Fanti, and Henrich 2006; Goldstein, Young, and Boyd 2008). Establishing reliable indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation and regularly updating and monitoring these indicators are important in ensuring the safety of our nation’s students. This is the aim of Indicators of School Crime and Safety. The report included in this book is the seventeenth in a series of annual publications produced jointly by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), in the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the U.S. Department of Justice. This report presents the most recent data available on school crime and student safety. The indicators in this report are based on information drawn from a variety of data sources, including national surveys of students, teachers, principals, and postsecondary institutions. Sources include results from the School-Associated Violent Deaths Study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the National Crime Victimization Survey and School Crime Supplement to that survey, sponsored by BJS and NCES, respectively; the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, sponsored by the CDC; the Schools and Staffing Survey and School Survey on Crime and Safety, both sponsored by NCES; the Supplementary Homicide Reports, sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; EDFacts, sponsored by NCES; and the Campus Safety and Security Survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The most recent data collection for each indicator varied by survey, from 2009 to 2013. Each data source has an independent sample design, data collection method, and questionnaire design, or is the result of a universe data collection. All comparisons described in this report are statistically significant at the.05 level. Additional information about methodology and the datasets analyzed in this report may be found in appendix A. The report covers topics such as victimization, teacher injury, bullying and cyber-bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions. Indicators of crime and safety are compared across different population subgroups and over time. Data on crimes that occur away from school are offered as a point of comparison where available. (SNOVA).
Book
By examining averted school rampage incidents, this work addresses problematic gaps in school violence scholarship and advances existing knowledge about mass murder, violence prevention, bystander intervention, threat assessment, and disciplinary policy in school contexts.
Article
This study examined 16 perpetrators of multi-victim shootings at colleges and universities, comparing them using Langman's typology of psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatized shooters, and dividing them into targeted vs. random attackers. Targeted attackers were more frequently psychopathic than random attackers , with the latter being most commonly psychotic. Random attackers caused more casualties than the targeted attackers, and also had a higher rate of suicidality. Many perpetrators had family members who had served in the military and/or been involved in educational settings, many of the shooters experienced academic and/or professional failures, and most of the random attackers experienced failure in their pursuit of military careers. The targeted attackers left more warning signs of impending violence than the random attackers. The sample of college shooters was also compared to former college students who committed or planned multi-victim shootings in settings other than colleges or universities, with several similarities noted.