In the wake of the most recent school shooting, I've been asked a lot of questions about school security. Even this morning, one of the big magillas at the school was asking me what could be done to improve the security at local schools. That's a complicated question that does not lend itself to a simple answer. The basic idea, though, is how much money are you willing to spend?
We live (theoretically) in a free society. Many of our schools were built in another era, when free access and ease of movement were the primary considerations. Many of the schools I am familiar with, especially high schools, are not monolithic structures. They're a campus with multiple facilities. For example, the last high school I was assigned had a front building, a back building, two gymnasiums, a woodworking shop and an ROTC building, all connected by sidewalks. The main classroom building had fourteen (14) entrances, all used on a daily basis. A city street goes through the campus. How secure is it possible to make a facility like that?
I suppose you could wrap the whole facility in a chain link fence, with one main entry point, and positive movement controls on vehicles. Who is going to open the gate when a parent comes in to pick up a sick child? Who is going to check delivery vehicles? Many schools have kids coming and going all day, with the attendant movement in the student parking lots. Who is going to man that gate? (Trust me, been there, done that).
At some point, as you increase movement controls, with positive entrance and exit security, you realize that you are no longer in a school, but in a prison. Even in prisons, (been there too), we have security issues. Daily problems arising from locked doors, competing priorities, and daily necessities. So, inn the schools, especially, we have this dichotomy between security and freedom of movement. We have to balance those issues as we try to live in a free society with security concerns.
In 2003, our sheriff decided to put one trained, certified cop in each school in our parish. He absorbed the full cost of the project. I volunteered for the program and it has been very successful. We work in the schools, but we work for the Sheriff and this has been very successful, although the program was not without its growing pains.
If there are going to be armed, trailed officers in the schools, it is important that they not work for the school district. The officer must have freedom of movement (not be tied to a post), have full authority to arrest. The officer is NOT there to help with classroom management or school discipline, or any of a myriad of other issues except as they affect law enforcement. The officer's main function is to be highly visible, to deter threats, to move toward and eliminate threats, and to be a law enforcement liaison to the school. In time, the officer will become an integral part of the school, completely integrated in the daily routine, but apart.
And yes, the officer will do a certain amount of classroom management, assist with school discipline, and many other things not normally associated with his primary function. That's okay, as long as everyone remembers what the primary function of the officer is. It is okay for the officer to be helpful, and every cop in the school wants to be an asset, but there are certain things that cops are not allowed to do in a school, simply because they are cops.
Put a fully certified, highly trained cop in every school. Give them freedom of action, accountable to the local Sheriff or Police Chief, and let them be highly visible. We've been using this model since 2003 and it seems to work very well.