Attacks in our schools seem to be occurring with more frequency and with higher intensity. But the response among political and school-district leaders has often been confused and often been understandably inconsistent. Schools are not, in fact, more common targets for mass shootings than other public venues. But as free and open places for learning, creativity, and athletics, they are particularly vulnerable. And of course schools have a special obligation to keep the children in their care safe.
Protecting schools is a particularly terrible and vexing problem. But Popular Mechanics has always been about solving problems. This is not a story about guns or rights or control. Those debates will take a log time to play out. There will be no legislative solution tomorrow or the next day or by the end of this school year. In the meantime, we decided to apply our expertise to the physical structure of schools—how can we make these buildings a little more secure? And how can we do so without making schools feel like prisons?
We consulted with building engineers, security experts, and leaders at schools that have suffered the awful trauma of a shooting and applied hard lessons from that experience. In this guide, you’ll learn about some of the basic physical and organizational changes that any school can make in order to become safer and less fearful. It is designed so that any member of a school community wondering what measures they should consider—and also what they shouldn’t—can find something useful.
One other point: The likelihood of a person with a gun walking into any given school tomorrow or the next day is very, very low. As you’ll see, some improvements that are designed to guard against such a horror can also have benefits in helping a school mitigate other common problems—and even improve its sense of community.