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Schools Boost Security Measures Amid Rising Gun Safety Concerns

Across the nation, more schools have installed security cameras, added locks inside classrooms, and stepped up other security measures in an effort to curb violence, according to new federal data released amid heightened safety concerns less than a week after another school shooting. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics showed schools increasingly turning to new protocols and equipment to keep violence at bay. Schools reporting that they had panic buttons or silent alarms with a direct connection to law enforcement jumped to 43 percent in November 2022, reports the Washington Post. Nearly 65 percent of schools now have anonymous or confidential threat-reporting systems. Half of schools reported having trained school resource officers on campus at least once a week. Experts attributed at least part of the spike to the seemingly frequent school shootings. More than 331,000 children at more than 350 schools have experienced gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Siremonths before the federal data were collected, a mass killing at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tx., left 19 children and two teachers dead, setting off a wave of grief and anger. “It’s not just Uvalde,” said Prof. Ron Avi Astor of the University of California Los Angeles, who studies school safety. “It’s decades of shootings that are horrific, and it’s not just in schools. It’s supermarkets and movie theaters, music events, and just the randomness.”

Astor said that the increased security arrives in schools at the same time as more mental health initiatives and greater attention to student well-being. “It’s not an either-or,” he said. Like others, he cautioned against the “prisonization” of schools. Sheldon Greenberg, a professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, said there is a delicate balance between maintaining safety and frightening people. “You don’t want to increase the safety measures to the point where you are increasing fear,” Greenberg said. He said adding security cameras or other technology does not make a difference unless it is “applied well and monitored.” School safety practices have been in the spotlight for years, particularly after devastating rampages like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members in 2012. Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia and a longtime school safety researcher, said it’s important to remember that schools remain among the safest places. Cornell is skeptical of expensive security measures that have little evidence of effectiveness. “Security measures can divert funding from student support services like counseling and mental health programs which have been shown to reduce student aggression,” he said. “The prevention of violence has to start before a student comes to school with a gun.”


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