Changing Technology and Procedures to Prevent Against School Violence

Campbell Co., Tenn., incident begs the question: When do we use urban security techniques in rural schools?

Fiel: That's a great question. I think the first thing to do is to bring the parents to the school district's planning table. We have to put ideas like searches, CCTV cameras, student detentions in front of these students' parents. You have to bring in a safety committee that uses parents, the kids, administrators, local police so that everyone understands why these kinds of security responses are being proposed. Parents and kids can be your best security allies. In my work, we ask the kids, "Where would you put this camera?" and they often tell us where the problems are.

SIW: What is something simple, low-cost and effective that schools can do to help prevent school violence?

Fiel: I always ask, "Do you have a student crime or violence hotline?" How much does that cost! It works because not all of your students will feel comfortable walking up to a police officer or an administrator to give them a tip. A lot of times they don’t want to be seen as a snitch. These things don’t happen arbitrarily; usually some other students know what will happen.

SIW: What can you tell us about the usage of surveillance cameras in a school shooting situation?

Fiel: Maybe a camera system could have caught this, maybe it could have seen the gun being deposited in the cafeteria, it's hard to know. With CCTV, you have to constantly be watching these. I also highly recommend public view monitors. Let everyone know that the cameras are on and working.

CCTV is initially a cost factor. But I try to tell people they can get ROI in one or two years, and I show them that because I take incident numbers and I associate a cost with each incident. So maybe you have 10 break-ins where the average cost of replacement and repair is $5,000 each. If you put in a $50,000 camera system that helps deter many of those incidents, then the system can pay for itself within two years.