The first real possibility of federal gun legislation in decades was sketched out by a bipartisan group senators.
It comes in the wake of May 23, 2022, school shooting in Uvalde, Texasin which an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers before being himself killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police.
Possibly inspired by fear that the shooter entered the school through a door whose lock has malfunctionedand faces few other obstacles or restrictions in its attack, the bipartisan proposal would stimulate both physical security measures and number of mental health workers in schools. This could be in addition to the proposed funding of US$1 billion for hire more school counsellors, nurses, social workers and school psychologists.
Another approach popular among some politicians to increase school safety is supposedly school hardening. Hardening includes a wide range of physical defenses, such as surveillance cameras, metal detectors, door locking systems, the arming of teachers and even armed guards. In the weeks following the Uvalde shooting, teacher arming support and the use of police in schools was renewed by leaders of both political parties.
The Uvalde shooting, like all school shootings, raises questions and concerns for parents and community members about how schools might deter a would-be shooter from attacking. Unfortunately, my research and the looking for others find that there is certainly not that schools can become so safe that they prevent gun violence.
Dealing with Threats
Like a teacher By researching school safety and childhood trauma, I study how environments support or hinder healthy growth and development. School is an important environment to consider since children spend more six o’clock at school every day with their peers and teachers.
Researchers like me use the term school climate describe the attitudes, beliefs, values and expectations that hold together school life, and the extent to which community members approve of them. Although physical security devices affect students’ perception of school security, school climate and the actions of teachers and staff also contribute to feelings of safety.
School safety is big business
School safety has become a major industry in the United States. Each year more than $2.7 billion are spent to strengthen schools.
But there are now no conclusive evidence that each of these measures prevent school shootings. In some cases, the attackers fired through the windows to enter the building or set off fire alarms to get the occupants out of the school. Schools’ attempts to make students safer don’t actually do thatand costs schools money this could help increase staffing and better equip classrooms for learning.
Even inexpensive patches that security professionals consider best practicessuch as the locking of exterior doors, are limited effectiveness. Door lock policies are not always applied. Or, as in the Uvalde shootout, the equipment to keep the doors locked malfunctioned. All of these expenses and activities can give students and teachers a false sense of security.
When buying hardware, administrators can fall prey to the idea that systems take care of everything, so people don’t need to prepare.
Additionally, the app police, metal detectors and other punitive measures in schools can increase school violence for historically marginalized studentssting higher rates of disciplinary action against students and reduce the availability of extracurricular activities.
In addition to not being effective in reducing gun violence, a overuse of surveillance strategies can make students feel less safe at school. The presence of metal detectors has complicated effects and conflicting research results. For instance, metal detectors can increase students’ feelings of fear and can also violate privacy. At the same time they can reduce the number of weapons brought to campus.
Another complicated answer is locking exercises. While some research suggests they can be effective prevent school violence and prepare students to respond to a range of emergency scenarios, other research suggests that these exercises can confuse children and increase fear and anxiety.
Using Evidence to Protect Schools
The notion of tighter access to school buildings is complicated by the fact that about half of school shootings are done by people within the school community – students, alumni, staff, or family members – who would likely be allowed to enter the school and allowed to go through various security checks.
A comprehensive approach to school safety actively engages students, teachers and parents, identifies people at high risk using threat assessment techniques, and asks teachers and administrators to refer these students to mental health services.
Increasing school mental health services is a proven way to increase school safety and promote a positive school climate, and includes teaching students conflict management and emotional coping skills. Research suggests that these efforts promote student well-being, thus increasing the safety of the school. These services can also help school communities deal with trauma resulting from violence.
The new legislation offers an opportunity. Schools have always struggled to fund a sufficient number of counselors and social workers the needs of the school community. Especially as COVID-19 relief funds dry up, schools are scrambling to hire and retain enough mental health staff. The new federal proposal could help fund these efforts.
Schools cannot be hardened enough to prevent gun violence. Schools can, however, become physically and psychologically safer so that students can learn and blossom.