Keep School Safety Risks in Perspective

I have been doing a number of media interviews relating to the deadly shooting at the movie theater in Colorado last week.  Most of these have focused on whether or not the types of security measures that have proven to be at time successful and at other times not so successful in schools might be effective in the unique setting of a movie theater.

For example, as with high profile shootings in other settings, many people immediately want to know if metal detectors can protect us from such horrific attacks.  As I partially outlined in an earlier blog, there are some supportive measures that are required for entry point metal detection that will make reliable screening an expensive and cumbersome protective measure that bear careful consideration. 

At the same time, I am concerned that we will see the same deadly overemphasis on active shooter situations in the movie theater setting that we have seen in the K12 and higher education setting.  Many people tend to become overly focused on this one unique, deadly but extremely rare type of incident to the exclusion of many other more common and also deadly acts of violence.  For example, none of the more than 1,200 people who were shot this year in Chicago were victims of an active shooter.

There have been several shooting incidents in Macon, Georgia which is a city with a high crime rate near the small town where I now live.  Each of these incidents were gang related situations which occurred in the parking areas rather than in the theater.  Entry point metal detection would have done nothing to prevent these situations.  While metal detectors can be and have been successfully deployed in a number of settings, there have also been a number of shootings at venues where they were improperly utilized.  As with movie theaters, courthouses and other settings with unique concerns, schools require security and emergency preparedness approaches that fit with their unique requirements.

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.