Ignorance on School Security

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Kenneth S. Trump, President
National School Safety and
Security Services
Cleveland, OH Small Nonprofits

As I read the February issue of Youth Today, I was shocked and dismayed to find that your editorial, “Sane School House Safety,” lacked even the most basic understanding of what constitutes school security and the true role played by school-based police officers.

One flawed assumption is that most federal spending goes to what the editorial described as “perimeter security enhancements.” Experienced school safety professionals know that the majority of Safe and Drug Free Schools grant dollars fund prevention and intervention programs.

Another misleading statement dismisses physical security measures and school resource officers on the grounds that there are no “rigorous evaluations” demonstrating that these strategies make schools safer. Look at the number of rigorous evaluations that have demonstrated the failure of many prevention and intervention programs (many of which are still funded). Just as we should not eliminate prevention and intervention programs because academic evaluations have proven many to be unsuccessful, we also should not use the absence of ivory-tower research to dismiss balanced, common sense security and policing programs.

A recent survey of school resource officers conducted for the National Association of School Resource Officers (www.nasro.org) found more than 91 percent of the 689 school-based officers reporting that at least half of their work is prevention-oriented. A review of our website (www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/school_violence.html) provides a number of incidents where school-based officers prevented school violence. A little research would also have taught you that professional school security programs involve a variety of strategies beyond physical security measures.

Instead of doing a bit of research, you tossed out a bunch of questionably related numbers to justify a bias.

Too often, we hear the rhetoric that security and crisis measures will turn our schools into prisons. Ironically, these same [critics] seem to never write editorials protesting heightened security to protect their money in banks, or to protect them and their cars while they shop at affluent suburban malls. Nor do they complain about perimeter security measures at fast- food restaurants, such as locked doors and surveillance cameras at drive-through windows.

Schools must also have a balance of prevention, intervention, security and crisis planning measures to protect our most precious resources, our students and teachers. Until we stop apologizing for protecting hamburgers, our money and our shopping environments more than we do our children and educators, we will never get past the adult rhetoric that seems to be the biggest obstacle to a meaningful safe schools policy.