In the years after the massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, US public schools have expanded security measures by adding safety drills and parent notifications, reports a government survey.
The beefing up came during a four-year period when there was an overall drop in violent crime in schools, but during a time that did include extremely high-profile and violent incidents like the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December, 2012 that resulted in 20 children and six educators being killed, writes Kimberly Hefling of Associated Press.
The report from the 2013-2014 school year was implemented by the National Center for Education Statistics. It found that 88% of public schools had created a written plan explaining how to respond to an active shooter and 7 out of 10 had drills in place to practice the plan. Approximately three-quarters of schools were using security cameras, and 43% said security personnel were in place at least once a week.
Ronald Stephens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center, said schools have been working more closely with local law enforcement and had increased school security even before the Newtown attack. He believes the work schools have done has been part of the reason for a decrease in overall school crime.
The government survey was sent to school principals, and the results showed that 65% of public schools reported at least one violent incident such as rape, fighting with a weapon, or robbery with and without a weapon, for the 2013-2014 school year. This was down from 74% in the 2009-2010 academic year when the survey was last administered.
Also, about 8 in 10 schools have a parent notification system that automatically alerts parents of an emergency, as opposed to 6 in 10 four years ago. Forty-seven percent of schools have a system that allows a person to report a crime in a school anonymously, when four years earlier only 36% of schools had such a system. Ken Trump, a school safety consultant, notes that faculty and staff members in schools he has visited do not seem aware that the number of violent incidents is decreasing.
“We’re hearing people saying we’re having a lot more problems with aggressive kids and such,” Trump said.
The addition of cameras, buzzers, and bulletproof glass has been implemented in Connecticut schools since the Sandy Hook shootings. Hartford, Connecticut schools added armed guards after the Newtown tragedy, a decision which just last week was overturned for the next school year, according to Kim Lucey and Rob Polansky of WFSB-TV.
In Indiana, a high school in Shelby County is directly connected to the sheriff’s office, and faculty members can press a key fob they wear to alert the school and dispatchers in the case of an emergency, reports Joe Melillo of WTHI-TV.
As expected, there were more reports of violence among high school students than among younger students. Over 90% of the nation’s high schools reported a violent incident, while 53% of elementary schools did the same.
Information from the survey showed that the trend toward the addition of security measures in schools actually began after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings during which 13 were killed in Colorado. Emma Brown of The Washington Post writes that federal education officials noted there were methodological differences between the 2013-2014 survey and the 2009-2010 report, and that the changes could have influenced the results.