Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Schools Learned about Safety since Columbine

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What Schools Learned about Safety since Columbine

Article excerpt

Schools have become savvier about how to prevent attacks in the decade since the mass killing at Columbine High. They have trained staff to spot the signs of a student carrying a weapon and created teams of police and school officials to respond to potential threats.

"It really did create a massive movement in the United States for improved school safety," says Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit school safety organization in Macon, Ga. From talks with school leaders around the country, Mr. Dorn estimates that hundreds of planned attacks have been averted: "To me, that's an incredible success."

The concern today is that tight budgets and short memories could mean waning vigilance. Moreover, many schools might be relying too heavily on technology and physical security, rather than tackling the more important challenge of creating a supportive culture on campus.

"You can't do just one or the other," says Amy Klinger, a former principal and a professor at Ashland University in Ohio. "You need a comprehensive approach."

Ninety percent of 435 schools and universities said they are safer now than when the Columbine shootings took place 10 years ago Monday, according to a recent survey by Campus Safety Magazine. After Columbine, for example, 49 percent of K-12 schools created or expanded "multidisciplinary threat assessment" teams - administrators, teachers, police, and counselors who identify and respond to situations they see as potential threats.

The importance of a school's culture and emotional climate emerged in a series of reports after Columbine, conducted jointly by the US Department of Education and the Secret Service. Examining 37 incidents of school violence between 1974 and 2000, researchers found that 93 percent of the perpetrators had exhibited concerning behaviors in advance of the attacks. In 81 percent of the cases, at least one bystander had some prior knowledge of the threat. …

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