Armored school doors, bulletproof whiteboards and secret snipers
Billions are being spent to protect children from school shootings. Does any of it work?
Nov. 13, 2018
Although school security has grown into a $2.7 billion market — an estimate that does not account for the billions more spent on armed campus police officers — little research has been done on which safety measures do and do not protect students from gun violence. Earlier this fall, The Washington Post sent surveys to every school in its database that had endured a shooting of some kind since the 2012 killings of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., which prompted a surge of security spending by districts across the country.
In 2016, Utah’s Union Middle School had a surveillance system, external doors that could be accessed only with IDs and an armed policewoman, known as a resource officer, when a 14-year-old boy shot another student twice in the head during a confrontation outside the building just after classes ended.
“Even if we would have had metal detectors, it would not have mattered,” wrote Jeffrey P. Haney, district spokesman. “If we would have had armed guards at the entrance of the school, it would not have mattered. If we would have required students to have see-through backpacks and bags, it would not have mattered.”
The survey responses are consistent with a federally funded 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University that concluded there was “limited and conflicting evidence in the literature on the short- and long-term effectiveness of school safety technology.”
Much of what can be done to prevent harm is beyond any school’s control because, in a country with more guns — nearly 400 million — than people, children are at risk of being shot no matter where they are. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that, among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by gunfire lived in the United States.
The solution, Goudreau concluded, was to embed former Special Operations agents, posing as teachers, inside schools. He argued that the benefits over resource officers were obvious.