School Safety Expert Tip – Use Caution When Considering New School Safety Measures

School safety is naturally more on the minds of parents, students and school officials since the deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.  School officials across the nation have spending millions of dollars and making major changes in school safety measures.  Unfortunately, there are a host of increasingly popular school safety concepts that have not been validated as effective.  In some cases, schools are changing to approaches that we have some solid indications are likely to increase rather than decrease danger. 

For example, we are seeing some very troubling reactions when crisis simulations are run in schools where students and staff are taught to attack a gunman as a last resort.   With more than 3,000 one-on-one crisis simulations to date, we are seeing bizarre reactions such as an incident where a teacher and students prepared to attack a public safety officer in an Iowa school after they completed a training program of this type. As we outline in our paper on the topic, an 18 month research project revealed that a number of school employees have already been shot and killed needlessly attempting to disarm people with guns in K12 schools.

During school safety assessments of more than three dozen public, parochial and independent schools across the nation since the Sandy Hook tragedy, we have seen a startling increase in the number of staff who respond that they would attack people who are threatening to commit suicide with a gun or who would travel across the campus to attack a drunk brandishing a gun when these responses clearly increase danger.  We predict that school officials and public safety agencies will be successfully litigated when students and staff misapply these techniques under stress and attack people who are not active shooters causing injury and/or death. 

We urge school officials to resist the temptation to adopt school safety concepts that may sound good but have not been validated by testing.   Just as importantly, school officials should keep in mind that most serious injuries and deaths on K12 campuses are not related to school shootings.  In fact, school violence is not a leading cause of death for students or school employees in the United States.  Focusing too intently on active shooter incidents has and will likely again result in the deaths of students and staff. 

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.