- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2022

America’s K-12 public schools are adding perimeter fences, school resource officers and even guns for teachers in a bid to prevent mass shootings as students return to class.

The increased security has been fueled by soaring concerns over mass shootings in Oxford, Michigan, and Uvalde, Texas, during the 2021-2022 school year, leaving many administrators on edge about how to protect their campuses, leaving many once-open buildings now resembling armed fortresses.

As students return, California’s Roseville City School District says it is spending $2 million “to outfit our schools with a six-foot perimeter fence and equip every classroom with classroom-safe locking doors and operable blinds.”

In Connecticut, Brookfield Public Schools are adding two school resource officers at each elementary school, five security monitors and one after-hours armed school security guard at the local high school. 

Ohio is training teachers and other staff to carry a gun at school through a 24-hour course that stresses active shooter training, acting on a law that Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed in June.

The new protocols are drawing a mixed reaction from educators, with some worrying they could add to a climate of fear for students and teachers.

SEE ALSO: 30 Texas state police officers will be stationed in Uvalde schools to start the new school year

“These preventative measures are the raw material for anxiety and nightmares,” said Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman, a professor of education at the University of Virginia. “Educators need to have conversations about how to talk to kids about these precautions and drills in ways that are age appropriate and provide children and youth with a sense of safety at school.”

Maryland public high school teacher Julie Giordano, a Republican candidate for Wicomico County executive, says her district needs 15 school resource officers but has only been able to hire five.

“We need to make sure to keep up with practicing school safety and table top drills. This is something that we have fallen short on in the past,” Ms. Giordano said.

Laura Carno, who trains teachers to use firearms in a crisis at the libertarian Independence Institute in Colorado, says a growing number of K-12 school personnel have signed up for her “advanced training” to carry a concealed firearm on campus.

“More suburban schools have expressed interest in the training since the tragedy in Uvalde,” Ms. Carno said.

Active-shooter training isn’t the only thing schools are adding this year, according to school tracking website Burbio.

SEE ALSO: North Carolina sheriff to supply area schools with AR-15 rifles in wake of Uvalde shooting

In Florida, Jacksonville’s Independent School District is requiring ID badges for all students. Michigan’s Alpena Public Schools is tightening regulations on door-locking, backpacks and building entrance procedures.

And the Clark Pleasant Community Schools Corporation in Indiana is hosting a “Superintendents Coffee” with panelists from the local police, fire and emergency management departments to discuss security enhancements.

California-based psychologist Thomas Plante, a professor at Santa Clara University, says public schools have more fires to put out than usual as students return this month, addressing the fallout from mass shootings while facing severe personnel shortages in some areas and an uncertain return to normalcy after two years disrupted by a global pandemic.

“They have to worry about COVID, school shootings, disruptive and demanding parents who have been recently activated by the culture wars and political divisiveness, being short-staffed since so many people are either retiring or quitting the teaching profession, mental health troubles among students and adults too, the list goes on and on,” Mr. Plante said. “Yet schools can only do so much.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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