More Guns On Campus Are The Last Thing We Need

More Guns On Campus Are The Last Thing We Need

Executive Editor Sydny Shepard questions security consultant Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. on best practices

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, if necessary.

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 the time?

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 informed.

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 a crisis.

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 people safe.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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