School supply shopping is a tradition student families must endure each year. Recently, however, school supply lists have started to shift. What used to be a list filled with notebooks, pencils, folders and a calculator is now saturated with items such asbulletproof accessories, including backpack inserts and clipboards.
Although parents purchase these items with their child’s safety in mind, security experts say these items are impractical and deter from resources that are more effective. "It may be well-intended but it’s not well thought-out," said Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant. "There's feeling safer and then there's actually being safer."
Safety consultants say these items might put educators and pupils at ease, but are unlikely to be the difference between life and death. Bulletproof products are extremely costly. For example, a recent article states a German engineering firm even offered to make an entire school bullet-resistant — at a cost of more than $3 million.
One of the largest issues with school districts investing in these large-scale bulletproof projects has to do with budget constraints. Over the past five years there has been a drastic cut in school budgets, including cuts to school security and emergency planning programs.
Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit that has conducted more than 5,000 school safety assessments, states, "We could cut the death rate in half in our schools with things like good student supervision and better drill processes."
Dorn recommends that schools save the money they would spend on special shields and focus on school security in other aspects. This includes revamping safety drills to include more staff members and making them more effective and efficient during emergency situations. Emergency preparedness is important in all school districts and should not be neglected.
"We know if you put kids in double rows and practice a brisk walk with them, you can reduce the time of evacuate and shelter by 30 percent," he said. "You can do that in the largest schools in the nation for less than the cost of one security camera."
Another suggested emergency preparedness and school safety effort is to train school staff about the warning signs of violent students. Identifying kids that are likely to participate in violent behavior can possibly prevent dangerous situations. Proper communication between school administrators, staff members and parents is also an important part of school safety and emergency preparedness.
Do you feel bulletproof schools and school supplies are necessary? How is your school dealing with the issue of school safety?
For tips on how to create or improve your school’s Emergency Response Plan, check out Alert Solution’s Emergency Preparedness Guide today.