The shocking videotape of the explosion that rocked Hebrew University in Israel sent chills through American parents who wondered if it could happen here. Surely not. But the fact is that it has happened here--for instance, when four left-wing radicals targeted the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to demonstrate their opposition to the Vietnam War.
It was Aug. 24,1970, when the explosion shocked a nation that thought its schools were safe from a faraway war. Curiously, that was domestic terrorism comparable in its simplistic method to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. In Madison, too, a homemade bomb was packed with ammonium-nitrate fertilizer, mixed with fuel oil and given a dynamite detonator. It was exploded in a stolen van parked at the loading dock of the Army Research Center, killing a graduate student and seriously injuring five others.
None of the victims had anything to do with the Army center. The blast also did $6 million worth of damage to property, destroying 20 buildings.
Three of the four suspects, brothers Karl and Dwight Armstrong and David Fine, were arrested and served time in prison. The fourth, Leo Burt, went underground and surfaced only once, in 1972, when he published a manifesto. Later, the FBI named Burt as one of 200 possible Unabomber suspects. Eventually the preponderance of Unabomber evidence pointed to Theodore Kaczynski, who appears oddly to have plagiarized part of Burt's manifesto for his own rambling discourse on the "Industrial Society and Its Future."
While this sort of domestic terrorism may have seemed unthinkable in the United States until 1970, it certainly is on the minds of security consultants who worry today that America's schools are ill-prepared to deal with such threats. In fact, it appears the schools learned little or nothing from their Vietnam-era experience, especially when it comes to protecting laboratories.
"Colleges are very focused on protecting students in their dorms. While the dorms are closed, the labs are pretty much open places housed in businesses and academic classrooms," says John Fannin, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Delaware-based SafePlace Corp., which provides safety-accreditation services for lodging facilities, health-care facilities, assisted-living communities and schools. He says, "Colleges are poorly prepared for a terrorist act against their chemical and biological labs."
Fannin believes another vulnerability on college campuses involves protecting intellectual property. In many schools, he says, the door is open for terrorists to "utilize [radioactive] materials or steal them to create a dirty bomb."
While some colleges, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, have set up special task forces to identify and help implement security for its biological, nuclear and chemical labs, there is no universal safety code or standard to measure whether such labs indeed are safe. "There isn't even a national fire code in this country," Fannin notes. As a result the codes differ from state to state and sometimes county to county. He would like to see the federal government set up some type of standard and says the government could withhold federal funds from schools if they chose not to implement an antiterrorist program.
Colleges are not the only schools that might become targets, warns Ken Trump, president and CEO of National School Safety and Security Services in Cleveland. In the last three years there have been 79 students killed in elementary, middle and high schools, according to media reports, and that number could pale in comparison if terrorists strike U.S. schools as they have in Israel. "The purpose of terrorism is to inflict mass fear and change the way we live," Trump says. "Terrorists may want to hit soft targets which lack security. Al-Qaeda has said it will hit us where we least expect it. Schools are soft targets."
Trump warned of such an attack in his 2000 book, Classroom Killers? Hallway Hostages? How Schools Can Prevent and Manage School Crises. "The shock value of terrorist threats and acts are multiplied when children are involved," he wrote. "What would you do if your school received an anthrax scare? Or what if a school is bombed by international terrorists as their means of sending a message to U.S. leaders? To avoid thinking about preventing and managing such terrorist attacks, however, would be most horrible, if not negligent."
Consider the threat already issued by al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's network has claimed "the right to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children," Trump says. "Other than theme parks, where do we have kids gathering in masses in our country on a regular, consistent, daily basis other than our schools? Where is the Homeland Security Department when it comes to schools? Where is their plan of action to protect the nation's schools?" Other than the general precautionary measures circulated by the American Red Cross, which asks school administrators at least to implement identification checks, there has been no antiterrorism security plan outlined for schools to prepare or prevent a terrorist attack, Trump says.
Curt Lavarello, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a Boynton Beach, Fla., organization that provides security training and oversees some 8,500 law-enforcement officers in about 6,500 schools from kindergarten to high school, puts it bluntly. "We are absolutely not prepared for a widespread attack should terrorists hit our schools," he says. "There is no way to sugarcoat it. We are in an area of disbelief. Many schools don't believe it can happen to them."
But it can happen, Lavarello says, and quite easily. In his visits with more than 1,000 schools he has discovered some disturbing security lapses. For instance, few if any principals even are aware of whom their food venders are. "Food shipments are coming in unchecked," he says. "If you can affect the school sugar supply or air supply you can impact a lot of children."
Lavarello would like the federal government to mandate that schools develop a terrorism plan just as some states required that their schools develop crisis teams in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colo. He also would like to see all schools required to report basic security information to a single agency, as institutions of higher education were required to do under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act. (Clery was raped and murdered on the Lehigh University campus in 1986.)
While the Clery Disclosure Act enabled parents and students to review crime statistics at many universities (see http:/ope.ed.gov/security/), it has been routinely ignored by some schools. Since the law was enacted in 1990, 437 colleges have been found in violation of the law. Since 2000, schools found distorting reports of these statistics have faced a $25,000 fine for each falsely reported figure.
Violent crime increased in 2000, according to statistics from the 6,239 reporting institutions. The on-campus murder rate almost doubled, from 11 in 1999 to 20 in 2000. Forcible rape in residence halls jumped from 1,237 incidents in 1999 to 1,284 in 2000. Reported burglaries rose from 25,843 in 1999 to 26,543 in 2000. College crime statistics for 2001 have yet to be released.
Schools that have been plagued with the most violence may not be those targeted by terrorists, in part because they now are likely to have a greater police presence. Security consultants warn that smaller private schools and colleges where security guards are doubling in other roles might be easier to penetrate.
Lavarello says that when police chiefs know there will be 2,000 people gathering somewhere, they tend automatically to provide security. But every day that many students congregate at thousands of schools in the United States, and there is no law-enforcement presence because the community would rather have them "patrolling empty houses protected by alarm systems. It makes no sense," he says.
Trump says terrorists don't have to strike a large school to make a point. "What if you had 20 suicide bombers go into 20 schools simultaneously?" he asks. "It would have the same impact as two planes hitting the World Trade Center or maybe even greater impact. Our nation's education policy is to leave no child behind, but to me we are leaving every child behind."
Even in light of the outrages of Sept. 11 and the terrorist threats against schools--particularly Jewish schools--school administrators continue to show reluctance to increase security.
Trump explained it this way in his 1999 testimony before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "Progress in improving school security and crisis preparedness has historically been hampered by denial, image concerns and related political influences within school districts and communities.... Many school officials have falsely believed over the years that by implementing professional security measures and crisis-preparedness plans from a security perspective, they will receive adverse media attention or be viewed as poor managers."
Can anything change this? "There is going to have to be a terrorist incident equivalent to [the] Columbine [shootings]. It's going to take an incident," Trump says. "Before 9/11, no one was talking about airline security because no one wanted an image problem, nor did they want to create fear and panic. The same analogy can be used with schools. If we don't talk about it, people think it is going to go away. But the only way to manage fear is to present a balanced and informed discussion. Two things reduce fear--awareness and preparedness."
While Trump has been called an alarmist, he views himself as a realist. As he warned the Senate, "We should consistently prepare our school officials to be informed, alert and proactive in preventing and, if necessary, in managing security and crisis incidents. The question is not whether the Littleton, Colo., incident or the other school tragedies should serve as a wake-up call. The real question is whether we will simply hit the snooze button and go back to sleep."
Campus Danger 1998 1999 2000 Murder On-campus (incl. res.) 22 11 20 Residence Halls n/a 3 11 Noncampus n/a 99 57 Public Property n/a 196 318 Total n/a 306 395 Forcible Sex Offenses On-campus (incl. res.) 1,809 1,868 1,858 Residence Halls n/a 1,237 1,284 Noncampus n/a 445 448 Public Property n/a 1,853 1,676 Total n/a 4,166 3,982 Robbery On-campus (incl. res.) 1,845 1,917 1,933 Residence Halls n/a 263 281 Noncampus n/a 1,806 1,431 Public Property n/a 6,929 9,530 Total n/a 10,652 12,894 Aggravated Assault On-campus (incl. res.) 3,822 3,606 3,644 Residence Halls n/a 1,082 1,093 Total n/a 43,520 42,455 Arrests - Drug Violations On-campus (incl. res.) 10,157 10,231 11,256 Residence Halls n/a 4,993 5,877 Noncampus n/a 4,088 1,779 Public Property n/a 1,379 12,296 Total n/a 28,118 25,351 Arrests - Illegal-Weapons Possession On-campus (incl. res.) 1,375 1,304 1,091 Residence Halls n/a 353 275 Noncampus n/a 739 4,220 Public Property n/a 1,511 1,454 Total n/a 10,652 12,894 Burglary On-campus (incl. res.) 25,865 25,843 26,543 Residence Halls n/a 10,615 10,969 Noncampus n/a 8,729 7,595 Public Property n/a 35,193 34,348 Total n/a 69,765 68,486 Motor-Vehicle Theft On-campus (incl. res.) 6,099 5,880 5,792 Residence Halls n/a 367 474 Noncampus n/a 4,096 3,777 Public Property n/a 17,298 21,487 Total n/a 27,274 31,056 Source: U.S. Department of Education
RELATED ARTICLE: Crime is no stranger to college campuses.
Violent crime is on the rise at American colleges. According to the latest reported crime statistics the number of on-campus murders almost doubled and robberies were up about 20 percent. Motor-vehicle thefts and arsons also increased.
So which is the most dangerous campus in the United States? In 1999, APB News rated Morris Brown College in Atlanta as the worst. The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1990 cited the University of Wisconsin-Madison as having recorded both the highest number and the highest increase of alcohol-related arrests. An FBI listing of statistics from 2000 shows that the most violent crimes occurred at the University of Maryland-College Park, while the most property crimes took place at the University of California-Los Angeles.
However, some think these increases are more reflective of improvement in campus security and prevention than of increased criminality.
"There is more security awareness, there is better reporting, there is more reporting and, therefore, one could draw the false conclusion that on specific campuses crime is on the rise," says Dario Marquez, former White House Secret Service agent and founder and chief executive officer of Virginia-based MVM Securities Inc., which handles campus security at government agencies and secondary schools.
But it isn't necessarily so. For instance, MVM has handled security at Trinity College in Washington for the last few years. It implemented a security plan at the small college, including a roving security force, an electronic-card access system and student-awareness programs that resulted in only a single reported car theft in 2000.
Marquez believes most criminals who victimize students come from off campus. "The biggest threat to an American college student is still the average criminal," Marquez maintains. "They're the adversary."
Some crimes, such as sex offenses and aggravated assault, however, occur on campus as commonly as they do elsewhere. When APB News, now defunct, reported that the University of Chicago was in the top 2 percent of dangerous schools, the administration there responded that the study was "not representative of the campus, but of surrounding areas." Some schools exempt crimes in surrounding areas--including those committed on public sidewalks and in streets--from their statistical reports. And some schools don't even include sex offenses and rapes called in to unaffiliated crisis centers and local police.
Schools complain about the guidelines for reporting the campus-safety statistics. The Department of Education was at first blamed for drafting vague regulations, then for lackadaisical enforcement of reporting policies. This resulted in legislation to amend the Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act requiring such statistical reporting, most recently in 2000, when a new provision required schools to list registered sex offenders located or working on campus.
Department of Education documents show 437 schools have been in direct violation of the Clery Act. Program reviews and audits cite inaccurate compiling and disclosure of crime statistics, missing crime-incident reports, undeveloped policies concerning illegal substances and preventing sexual assault, failing to provide warnings and notification, omitting information and not notifying and/or providing campus-security reports to both prospective and enrolled students.
This isn't a new problem, either. In October 2000, USA Today reported that dozens of schools were in violation, giving such examples as failures by the University of Florida to report 35 rape cases between 1996 and 1998, and the University of Pennsylvania's exclusion of more than 200 robberies that were worked by campus police.
WADE-HAHN CHAN, A STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, IS AN INTERN FOR Insight.…