It'll be fun!
It is absolutely normal to be concerned about things that are statistically unlikely to happen. Anyone watching me white-knuckle the armrest during takeoff takes off would have a clear example of this very human quality.
With that said, as individuals deeply engaged in the work of keeping schools safe, it is important for us to consider more than our greatest fears (like an armed assailant on campus) when building best practices and protocols in safety. This is especially true when we consider the fact that a community has a limited amount of time and money to devote to school safety. If all of our school safety resources are expended on active assailant preparation, then the community doesn’t have the bandwidth to tackle far more common issues that will absolutely come up during the year.
For example, experts state that one of the most pressing safety concerns schools face are custody disputes. Identifying and mitigating negative outcomes that might occur from this and other types of family-based trauma are much more relevant to protecting your school than say, bulletproof windows. Techniques and strategies, such as threat assessment programs, that de-escalate potential incidents are an excellent tool that keeps schools much safer. A positive to programs like this is that they are applicable for all of the safety concerns in your community, from statistically unlikely all the way up!
It is also relevant to note that statistically speaking, this millennium has been marked by decreasing levels of school crime. Also decreasing? Incidents of theft, bullying, drug use, and physical fights. Hopefully, these facts allow us to take a breath and realize that the task of keeping our schools safe is not easy, but it is achievable. In many ways, the work schools have already done to be more aware and more responsive to all types of threats has been hugely positive.
Our recommendation? Consider taking a closer look at the relevant risks facing your community. Consider geography, neighborhood hazards, history, and other factors such as school makeup in determining what these are and how you plan to mitigate them. For example, some schools allow students to go off-campus for lunch. Delicious! But certainly an area where we need to devote some planning and consideration in how we will keep students safe in that process. In the world schools live in, one of limited time and resources, safety already faces an uphill battle to get its fair share. We highly recommend that schools in this situation take the time to assess the various risks they face and start solving the ones that are most likely to affect them.
Finally, I certainly don’t want the takeaway from this blog post to be that schools would be wasting their time in strengthening their safety plans to protect from an armed assailant. Not only is it useful to have your school practice lockdown drills, there are other emergency protocols that will be put into action when we test our preparation.
One example is communication. In today’s world, the only thing worse than lack of safety preparation is having to explain to your frustrated community why you didn’t tell them about your plans in advance. Drills of any kind can be an opportunity to see how the structures you’ve built will hold up when we need them. Test internal or external communications (with intentionality, not just to test them!) and you will likely find takeaways that are applicable to protecting your campus from an armed assailant, yes, but also ones that will be relevant if your school faces a wildfire.