As Newtown Anniversary Nears, Associations Help Schools Tackle Security

In the year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many efforts have been undertaken to better secure schools, some drawing controversy. A number of associations have played key roles in training and advocating for stronger security.

In the year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many efforts—some controversial—have been undertaken to better secure schools. A number of associations have played key roles in training and advocating for stronger security.

A year ago this Saturday, it seemed like the world stopped for a few short moments.

A dramatic, deadly shooting at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 20 children and six adult staff members. (Shooter Adam Lanza, who also died, had killed his mother at home before going to the school.)

The second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history led to many school districts across the country questioning their security practices—and to the passage of numerous state laws. Associations have taken part in many of these efforts. A few examples:

Increased training: The number of school resource officers—on-campus security personnel—has risen to the highest level seen since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) says. According to NASRO Executive Director Maurice Canady, the association has trained 1,800 officers in the past year, double the previous year’s number. The training goes beyond school shooting situations to deal with problems such as drugs and gangs. “Let’s face it, most officers are never going to face an active shooter,” Canady told Reuters.

Police officers welcomed: While the National Rifle Association’s push for more police officers on campuses was criticized in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, many schools have, in fact, increased police presence. (An Obama administration proposal to fund a community policing program that would support such efforts is still being reviewed by Congress.) National School Safety Center Executive Director Ronald Stephens, meanwhile, told Reuters that the police officers have become more accepted on school campuses. “It used to be if you had a cop on the campus, people would see it as something wrong with the school. Now, it’s seen as an advantage,” Stephens said.

Having a plan ready: Before Sandy Hook, many schools didn’t have an emergency plan in place. Bill Bond, the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ school safety specialist, said that has changed significantly in the past year. “The good news and the bad news is this: At first, no one knew what to do,” Bond told the Center for Public Integrity. “There’s a darn good template out there now.” That template, a how-to guide from the U.S. Department of Education, was released in June.

Should schools arm staff? One of the biggest questions to come from the Newtown tragedy is whether schools should consider having someone armed on the premises—police, guards, or even teachers. While some groups, such as NASRO, have come out against that idea (suggesting it could lead to accidental or friendly-fire shootings), some states have enacted laws that would allow teachers or other staff to carry firearms, according to the Center for Public Integrity report. Such bills have been introduced in 35 states; South Dakota was the first to pass a measure in March, and six others—Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas—followed suit. Many school districts are considering similar legislation, but a hurdle is that insurers are not keen on the idea. The Texas Association of School Boards has made it work by offering insurance programs through a cooperative.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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