More Guns On Campus Are The Last Thing We Need
Executive Editor Sydny Shepard questions security consultant Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. on best practices
- By Patrick V. Fiel Sr., Sydny Shepard
- April 01, 2018
In light of the recent tragedies on campuses, many government
officials and organizations have been calling for increased
security on educational campuses. Perhaps one of the most
controversial security measures to surface is the idea of arming
teachers on campuses.
Just two weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
High School where an ex-student shot and killed 17 people and injured
14 more, I sat down with Patrick V. Fiel, Sr., founder of PVF Security
Consulting, to get his take on the campus security debate.
SHEPARD: In the wake of the high school shooting in
Parkland, Fla., the campus security measure of arming
teachers has begun to make the rounds. Why does this
seem to be the go-to solution?
FIEL: This new idea seems to be gaining some traction in
an effort to stop school shootings on K-12 campuses.
President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association’s
main proposal to prevent another tragedy like the
one in Parkland is to arm teachers. This is their go-to
solution because they believe the presence of a firearm could halt further
damage in the act of another school shooting.
SHEPARD: It seems to me that there are numerous reasons why
school administrations would not want to add more weapons to their
campuses. In your opinion, does placing firearms with school administration
and teachers make campuses safer?
FIEL: This ill-advised idea of arming teachers could lead to more
shootings with innocent people being caught in the crossfire. There
would be more opportunities for guns to be stolen or taken by force,
and armed teachers would unlikely provide much of a difference when
a student gunman has the advantage of surprise.
SHEPARD: That is a fantastic point. Many teachers are not trained to
use firearms or may not feel comfortable with having one in their possession.
Asking faculty to be the last line of defense in an active shooter
scenario seems a little unfair. How can teachers help protect their
students without a firearm?
FIEL: Teachers have enough on their plates as it is. They need to be
able to concentrate primarily on their job of educating students, but
they can play a role in helping to identify troubled students that need
counseling or professional psychological intervention. Teachers and
staff should take every threat and student tip of potential violence seriously and full check up on each claim. Never assume that any talk of
violence is just an idle threat.
If there is an active shooter on campus, teachers and staff need to
let law enforcement officials handle the situation. Police officers have
been fully trained on how and when to use their weapons. They have
other tactical advantages, as well as trained hostage negotiators available,
SHEPARD: I agree that allowing law enforcement to handle the situation
is the best route to save lives in the event of an active shooter, but
what can be done to ensure that security is a priority on campuses all
FIEL: There are several things I would recommend schools should do
rather than giving their teachers and administrators firearms. First, I
would recommend implementing a closed-campus policy. All schools
must be closed to outsiders until they are cleared to enter through a
single controlled entrance. All other doors should remain locked
throughout the day.
SHEPARD: Perimeter protection and access control is very important
when implementing campus security. I agree that having campuses
closed to outsiders is one of the best ways to secure the grounds. Perhaps
implementing a great visitor management system, too, could help to
keep managing guests organized. What else would you recommend?
FIEL: Campuses should conduct random searches of student lockers
and cars, restrooms and stairwells, and other places where a weapon
could be hidden. The idea is to keep students off balance and show that
a policy of zero tolerance for weapons will be strictly enforced.
Also, it is wise to keep the landscaping trimmed and at a minimum
and have campus gardeners check outdoor places where a student
might hide a weapons.
SHEPARD: That’s a great point, I feel like sometimes campus administrations
are so focused on searching the inside of the school that
sometimes they forget to look for suspicious items outside. Do you
believe it is in a schools’ best interest to have a student resource officer
or police officer on campus to bolster security?
FIEL: Yes, it is definitely in their best interest. School districts should
make sure every campus has a police officer, often called a school
resource officer, assigned to the facility throughout each school day.
In case of a shooting or other acts of violence, a trained first responder
can initiate action within seconds, not the minutes it takes for a
911 call to be initiated, for police units to be dispatched and then
arrive on the scene and approach the suspect. Time is so important
in moments like these.
SHEPARD: You are exactly right. Time is so precious, especially when
it can be the difference between a small disturbance on campus and a
mass shooting. There are so many things that school administration
can do to bulk up security, how can campuses be sure they are doing
everything possible to keep their students, faculty and staff safe?
FIEL: Complete a risk assessment of the campus, and as a result,
prepare an emergency plan to use in a crisis situation. By practicing
the plan frequently, teachers and students will know how to react
during an emergency and minimize chaos. This also helps keep parents
SHEPARD: Keeping parents informed is definitely something campuses
should strive to do. Allowing parents to have continuing conversations
about the drills and plans students practice in school could
help students understand the importance of the situation. Are there
any security products you would recommend to schools who are looking
to add to their current security?
FIEL: Schools should consider the use of electronic security technology
to help reduce the likelihood of death or injury from a campus
gunman. Metal detectors can help spot guns, knives and other weapons
at the school entry. Video surveillance cameras can create an
added layer of security, giving school security officers a better idea of
what is happening in and around the campus before, during and after
Also, if the video is transmitted over a district network, it is possible
to allow law enforcement personnel to view the cameras from their
emergency command center and for the responding officers to view
this from their vehicles.
SHEPARD: Video surveillance, metal detectors and video management
systems are all excellent security product additions to any school
security plan. What would you say are the most important things campuses
should keep in mind when thinking of security?
FIEL: The main elements to an emergency plan are prevention, preparedness,
response and recovery. Minimizing injury and property
damage in an emergency situation is all about careful, meticulous
planning and a great deal of practice. Arming teachers on campus is
not going to save lives, but rather complicate the job of keeping
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.