A Renewed Debate About School Design to Stop Shooting
COLORADO – May 24, 2018
Second Amendment activists and some security experts are calling for safer school designs, while some gun-control advocates say it's a distracting issue that avoids more meaningful action.
The debate began after the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado and has gained more attention in the aftermath of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On Friday, in the hours after a student shot and killed ten people at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, the state’s lieutenant governor suggested again that it was time to examine school layouts.
“There are too many entrances and too many exits to our over 8,000 campuses in Texas,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, explaining that those points can’t all be guarded.
According to a report, last year in Education Week, a trade publication, the average age of an American school is 44 years with major renovations dating back more than a decade. Older buildings were designed without today’s worries of active shooters and terrorism.
They have lots of “nooks and crannies,” isolated areas that are difficult to supervise, as well as old hardware on classroom doors and main offices that aren’t located near the main entrance. Other problems include old public-address systems and no telephones in classrooms, said Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm.
Still, as Trump said, no amount of architectural planning or design will replace mental health treatment, emergency drills, training and the ability to identify potential school shooters ahead of time.
It’s naive to think that layouts and building features alone will make schools safer, he said, and politically expedient to tout only architectural design and construction. Focusing solely on exits and entrances can create a host of other issues, cautioned Gregory Shaffer, a security consultant, and retired FBI agent.
After the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States took steps to secure government and public buildings — from airports to concert halls. It’s routine now to go through a metal detector before entering a federal building. Yet those same steps aren’t common in public schools, making them more dangerous than prisons.