Preventing school violence can become costly

For two decades now our political leaders and school officials have been attempting to deal with the tragedies which have occurred in our school systems. The senseless slaughter of our children and educators has prompted numerous proposals ranging in firearms legislation to mental health intervention. Some of these proposals have merit and are worthy of consideration and enactment. Others fall far short of the intended goal.

I do not believe arming teachers is the right solution. Teachers are there to teach and not act as armed guards or police officers. In fact, we do not want an exchange of gun fire in our classrooms or in school corridors. The potential for unintended victims is too high, and with today’s supersonic ammunition the probability of multiple wounds is probable.

Schools are constructed with the same configuration and materials (central corridors lined by classrooms). The construction material is most generally masonry or other fire-retardant material, none of which would stop a high-speed projectile. Schools also have numerous points of access and egress as a safety precaution. Herein lies the main problem in that we want to keep the armed individual out of the facility.

One of many solutions is controlled access to the facility itself. Access points should be established with armed security personnel. Ideally, one central point of access should be established and configured so as to preclude exposure to students and facility in the event of gun fire.

In schools with large enrollments, several controlled access points could be established so as to alphabetically screen students. Metal detectors and wands would be at each check point and staffed by security personnel who are trained in firearms safety (shoot, don’t shoot criteria) and take-down techniques. Egress should also be controlled from one central location by remote control with battery backup systems.

The Secret Service has a team of experts that advises local governments on how best to secure public building. While serving as sheriff of Allen County and as a graduate of the Secret Service Dignitary Protection Academy, I learned of the service and requested that a security survey be conducted at the Allen County Court House. Upon receipt of their final report, we implemented all of their recommendations. The system worked well and has been in place now for over 20 years.

Obviously, the costs of establishing these safeguards would be substantial, as would periodic upgrades and personnel training. However, compared to the human tragedies we’ve already endured, no price is too high to pay.

Joseph Squadrito, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is retired from the Allen County Sheriff’s Department. Squadrito served with the department for 33 years,  rising through the ranks before serving two terms as sheriff. He is a graduate of the charter class of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy as well as the F.B.I. National Academy, the United States Secret Service Academy and the Southern Police Institute. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.