Sandy Hook one year later: How much longer do our schools have to wait?

Political gamesmanship in the aftermath of shooting has diverted attention away from addressing school security issues

Harden the classroom by installing locks that automatically lock doors when closed. This requires no action by teachers to lock the door during an emergency. If the doors are solid, add peepholes to allow the teacher to verify the identity of anyone wanting access.

Place panic buttons in the office, cafeteria, library and other locations throughout the campus where faculty and staff can immediately access first responders in an emergency situation.

Monitor the entire campus with surveillance cameras. These have been proven to be a strong deterrent, as well as vital in reviewing incidents after they occur. They also provide critical, live insight for first responders during an emergency situation.

People and Preparation – Even the best emergency plan is worthless if people don’t know how to use it. Practice an active shooter drill so often that every administrator, teacher and staff member instinctively knows how to react when an emergency strikes. Also, develop a close relationship with local first responders. Provide them with campus maps, as well as landline and mobile phone numbers for key school contacts.

Also, every school plan should include a provision for an armed and well-trained police officer on campus during school hours. If a school resource officer cannot be assigned, work with local law enforcement to make sure officers can respond within minutes. Helping to gain support and funding for this idea would be a perfect project for the NRA to promote.

One more thing, we need to restore and augment federal grants and encourage states, cities and private organizations to make more money available to pay for campus security enhancements. Only then can we can begin to hold superintendents and school boards accountable.

It CAN Happen Here

Fortunately, schools are generally a safe place for students. But it’s that sense of “it can’t happen here” that lulls us into accepting the status quo. A look at the shootings over the past 15 years shows they happen on campuses large and small. They have taken place in cities, suburbs and rural areas. Gunmen kill on affluent and poor campuses. There is no way of predicting where the next tragedy will occur.

Many people argue that it’s difficult to protect children from heavily armed, mentally disturbed people prepared to give their lives. Yes, it is difficult, but not impossible. And we can do this without making our schools resemble prisons.

Accomplishing this will require political leadership. It will require advocacy groups to temporarily shelf their unyielding agendas. It will require school board members and district superintendents to give security a priority along with academics. It will require parents and other voters making it clear they will no longer accept excuses or inaction.

As a nation, we’ve often shown ourselves capable of putting aside disagreements, overcoming apathy and finding the resources to solve serious problems. We can protect our children. They deserve nothing less.

The clock is ticking. We don’t have time to delay.

About the Author: Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. is an independent security consultant currently advising Security Identification Systems Corp. (SISCO), maker of the FAST-PASS visitor management system. Fiel also has served as public safety advisor for a large national security integrator; executive director of security for the Washington, D.C. Public School System; and is retired from the U.S. Army Military Police Corps.