Expert says basics — not flashy tools— make schools safe

  • New tools are emerging to defend against active shooters in schools
  • Creators say their products are designed with safety in mind
  • Costly devices won’t be a substitute for basic safety practices  

(NewsNation) — Folded away in an Alabama classroom is another expandable room — disguised as a whiteboard and built to withstand rounds from semiautomatic firearms.

It’s the latest example of a niche product in school safety technology that has emerged. Items like the safety room or weapon-detection systems are built to keep students and staff safe from weapons and potential active shooters.

But security technology like this can cost a large chunk of change, and it might not stack up against basic safety practices, said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland.

The most valuable defensive and preventative tools are the ones schools likely already have access to — if they can learn to use them efficiently.

“We want to focus on mastering those fundamentals. … A lot of stuff out there is security theater,” Trump said.

Focusing on the “day-to-day tools” at school staff’s fingertips should be the priority when it comes to active-shooter preparedness, Trump said, emphasizing the importance of basics like not propping open doors and making sure the school’s public-address system is working.

“The key thing is to focus on the fundamentals,” Trump said. “Let’s make sure we use the basic security measures day-to-day. The vast majority of schools will never experience a school shooting. One is one too many, yes. We need to prepare, but it’s one threat on a very broad continuum.”

School shootings are hard to prepare for, however. On Monday, a shooter entered a Nashville private school by firing rounds through the building’s glass doors, police said. To that end, products like bulletproof window glazes and reinforced doors serve their purpose.

Owner Kevin Thomas of KT Security — the company that designs Rapid Access Safety Rooms like the one in Alabama — wishes they weren’t necessary, but they allow teachers some level of control while school shootings remain a reality.

“Hopefully there’s a day where we get to in America, where we don’t need this,” Thomas told NewsNation during an interview Saturday, before the Nashville shooting. “I would rather not have to have it. But in the meantime, until we get the bigger issues fixed, this is what we could control.”

Last year, a New York school district purchased a $4 million weapons detection system, which failed to detect a hunting-style knife that was used in an attack months later, Spectrum Local News reported.

“Some of the best school security is less visible or even invisible, but most impactful,” Trump said.

Ultimately, it’s quick decision-making, effective communication and familiarity with tools like the school’s cameras or classroom phones that make a difference, Trump said.

“We’ve been to schools where almost every staff member has a two-way radio,” Trump said. “That’s awesome. … But I’ve also been in schools where the principal says, ‘Oh, we have them but they’re over there on the charger and I don’t carry those things.”

Daily safeguards outside the classroom are just as important.

Trump said that parents should check in on and listen to their kids, and make sure there’s at least one adult at school they feel safe talking to.

“There’s a focus now today, a skewed focus on technology, hardware and products. Target hardening, and physical security, is a piece, but the human aspect is the most important part,” Trump said.

Nashville School Shooting

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