First Things First – Focus on the Most Important School Security Risks When Considering Terrorist Attacks

There has been an interesting LinkedIn school safety group discussion relating to whether schools should be used as polling sites.  Several participants have cited concerns about Election Day terrorist attacks at schools used for polling along with more routine school security concerns.  A couple of participants feel that schools should never be used as polling sites while others feel that the use of schools as polling sites can have positive benefits without creating unreasonable risk. 

Predictions relating to terrorist attacks at school polling sites have not come to pass since they were first voiced with considerable alarm more than a decade ago.  While a terrorist attack on a school polling site could occur, a reality is that children die every year in schools due to easily corrected gaps in student supervision. 

While terrorist attacks by their very nature can be difficult to predict, excessive speculation can contribute to an ineffective utilization of resources.  Focusing on school security measures that will be useful is often more effective than emphasizing those with only a remote chance of paying off.  With time and funding for school security facing inherent limitations, focusing on core strategies such as improved student supervision and basic security measures can prove to be more effective.  Taking the time to utilize free school safety resources from both private and government organizations is another particularly productive approach. 

As the examples of school metal detection and the potential for problems with school polling sites indicate, there are many areas of school security where local risks, resources and realities need to be considered rather than a “one size fits all” approach.  If there are indications of danger with polling at schools in a community, it is appropriate to address them.  But assuming that schools should never be used as polling sites anywhere in the country absent more of an indication of risk may not be the most balanced approach to school security.


About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.