On December 18, 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety’s final report was released, proposing best practices and policy recommendations for improving school safety. The Alliance focuses on improving security infrastructure, security technology and life safety systems as part of a holistic approach to stopping school violence.
“The Commission’s final report contains a range of topics and findings, not all of which are in the Alliance’s purview,” said Secure Schools Alliance Executive Director Robert Boyd. “To be clear, the Alliance is not endorsing the full report. Indeed, many of our partners may voice opposition to aspects of this report as their expertise dictates, and we support our partners in their potential critiques. Nonetheless, there are parts of the report that we do endorse.”
The Alliance fully endorses the Commission’s language and recommendations in Chapter 16, Best Practices for School Building Security. Keeping intruders from our schools is an essential first step in preventing school violence, and the Alliance applauds the commission’s support for code and legal compliance of all school security solutions. The Alliance specifically thanks DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Infrastructure Protection Scott Breor for his leadership in drafting this section of the report.
“The final report from the Federal Commission on School Safety is expansive,” said Alliance Board Member Dr. Erroll G. Southers, who is also the Director of the Safe Communities Institute at the University of Southern California. “While the report contains best practices and recommendations that could be effective in preventing school violence, there are other problematic suggestions that give one reason to pause. While the Alliance does not endorse this report in full, we recognize that stopping school violence is a complex, multifaceted challenge. Defining the most effective methods to stop school violence will require further research, continued collaboration between the public, non-profit, academic and private sectors, and an enduring allegiance to the safety of the nation’s students.”
Beyond the Alliance’s specific focus area, it also supports ideas in report chapters 5 and 19.
- Chapter 5, Using Suspicious Activity Reporting and Threat Assessments to Enhance School Safety, emphasizes the importance of anonymous reporting systems and threat assessments, such as Colorado’s Safe2Tell, founded by Susan Payne. Providing a method for assessing threats, as well as a safe, anonymous way for students and community members to share concerns with authorities, are key components in stopping school violence.
- Chapter 19, Active Shooter Preparedness and Mitigation, focuses on training and awareness. Safe and Sound Schools co-founder and Alliance Board Member Michele Gay has long-argued for the need to train K-12 students and teachers to understand the types of suspicious behaviors that should be reported via anonymous reporting systems.
The arguments in Chapter 19 should help jump-start that important training effort. The chapter also points to the new DHS Active Shooter Table Top Exercises, developed by DHS’ Office of Academic Engagement, as well as other training available for specific sectors. However, the chapter fails to mention NFPA 3000, the new standard for community-wide Active Shooter Hostile Event Response. If we are to effectively address mass violence in our schools and communities, we must engage the entire community and train together, rather than doing so in silos.
Finally, the Alliance commends the leadership of Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais, who led this effort by carefully engaging and soliciting input from a variety of credible sources. In search of holistic solutions, his inclusive and engaging leadership is a model for public, private, non-profit and academic collaboration going forward.