To the Editor:
The Red Lake, Minn., school shootings have created once again an “either-or” debate on what is needed to make our schools safe (“School Shootings Stun Reservation,” March 30, 2005). Yet the real issue is not whether we should focus on more prevention or better security; it is whether we can have more prevention and better security. We need a balance between “mental detectors” and metal detectors.
To be prepared, schools need staff members who know the early warning signs of violence and also the basics of prevention programs, proactive school security procedures, and emergency-preparedness plans. There must first be a secure environment in which to then deliver prevention, intervention, and education programs.
School-related violent deaths spiked to 49 nationwide in the last school year, more than in the two previous school years combined. We are now at 31 school deaths in this school year. Front-line school safety officials consistently report an increase in safety concerns and incidents in their districts over the past two years.
Yet these professionals are having to fight against decreased school safety budgets and increased competition for time and attention. And they are losing on both counts. They also are continuing to confront the much bigger enemies of denial and complacency.
So the question is not whether the Red Lake shootings or any others are a wake-up call. The real question is whether or not we will hit the snooze button once again and go back to sleep.
Kenneth S. Trump
President National School Safety and Security Services