It’s September, and that means one thing in millions of households throughout the country: Back to School. When I was a kid that entailed shopping for supplies and new clothes and saying goodbye to summer, but not much else. Today’s parents, educators and administrators have a bit more to think and worry about these days.
In our house we are getting ready this week to take our middle son back to campus where he is studying electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. He will be a sophomore and a resident advisor this year. He has to go back to campus early to complete training that will no doubt cover everything from safety and security procedures to mental health issues he might encounter in his new RA role. Our youngest son will be a junior in high school and is angry about a proposed change to the schedule that will cut down on their “free period” hour they use for academic help, clubs, lunch and social time. The reason the county is giving for this change is too much fighting/leaving campus and not using it as intended — in other words, it has become a security and safety problem.
“According to the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization formed after an unimaginable tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut … there were more school shootings in 2022 — 46 — than during any year since Columbine in 1999, an event that seemed to unthinkable … then.”
My oldest son will go back to UMD shortly as well for his senior year, graduating in the spring of 2024. He is going to be an elementary school teacher, which should be among the safest jobs on the planet, but doesn’t feel like it anymore. This year he will be doing much more student teaching at local elementary schools around the county.
I won’t say I get scared when they get back to school, but the worry is always in the back of my mind. I know the likelihood of a shooting or tragedy is still statistically small; but it is growing at an alarming rate. According to the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization formed after an unimaginable tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut when my youngest was just the age of those first graders, there were more school shootings in 2022 — 46 — than during any year since Columbine in 1999, an event that’s seemed so unthinkable … then. Since that time, more than 338,000 students in the U.S. have experienced gun violence at school.
That is why this month’s cover story is so important. In Empowering Education: Strategies for Safer Learning Environments, Senior Editor Rodney Bosch examines the issues facing both K-12 and higher education learning facilities, speaking with a number of industry experts from providers of solutions to security integrators active in this space, to leaders of the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS).
“Today’s staff and educators are not only responding to everyday incidents, such as hallway altercations or minor health emergencies, but also critical emergencies and tragedies that continue to plague the nation such as natural disasters, bomb threats and active shooter scenarios,” Bosch writes in the article.
All the experts agree there are no easy answers to this gaping issue, but offer concrete advice for security dealers and integrators on how to truly be trusted and informed advisors to their education end users and help them figure out the best way of tackling the problem for their needs.
From schools still using metal keys on classroom doors, to higher education institutions looking to implement mobile credentialing and AI, and everything in between one thing is certain: the security industry will keep trying to come up with more effective and better ways to help on the technology side. Of course, school security is a multi-faceted issue, requiring efforts on the mental health and social fronts as well. But anything that can make that job easier can only help.