Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Designing With Security In Mind

http://www.wsj.com; March 13, 2018


Hello Everyone:

This morning, while scanning the news, a well written article written by Tawnell D. Hobbs in The Wall Street Journal, titled "Designing a School to Stop Shooters," caught Blogger's attention.  The article profiles the brand new George W. Bush Elementary School in the affluent neighborhood of St. Paul, Dallas, Texas.  The enhanced safety measures are intentionally designed into the plan in order to stop a would-be school shooter.  As is the usual case following a school shooting, there are calls for arming teachers, increased mental health and school safety spending, et cetera ad infinitum.  However, what gets overlooked, admittedly Blogger did this too, is how to build schools that incorporate enhanced security features so that the possibility of a mass school shooting can be mitigated.  Bush Elementary School is not the only school to design in safety features however, it is done in such a way that does not detract from its warmth.  Let us take a look at what measures were built into the George W. Bush Elementary School.

The first thing a visitor notices when approaching the Bush Elementary School is the sparse landscape and windows facing the street.  This affords administrators and staff a clear view of who or what is coming toward the school.  Entering the school is a multi-step process.  Ms. Hobbs explains, "Visitors enter a vestibule and must be buzzed inside the main office.  From there, a government-issued ID must be scanned through a system call the 'Raptor,' which alerts for child molestors and anyone flagged to keep out."  Blogger experienced something similar over the summer, going to an appointment on the west side of Los Angeles.  It is a minor hassle and one would be well advised to allow for extra time.

Another noticeable element at George W. Bush Elementary School are the wide corridors, devoid of any niches or alcoves, making it harder to hide from the omni-present video surveillance.  The video footage is watched by school administrators and police in patrol cars.

Ian Halperin, the spokesperson for the Wylie Independent School District where the Bush Elementary School is located, told The Journal, Every time there's a school shooting, we try to learn something from them.  The district does conduct regular lock down drills, full time security officers receive regular live shooter training and have strong ties to local enforcement, "including regular meetings and providing officers with key cards and access codes so they can rapidly enter schools.  

The above design elements and procedures are increasingly typical (wsj.com; May 21, 2015; date accessed) in the 98,000 across the United States in response to growing concerns about how to stop a would-shooter(s) (Ibid; Feb. 23, 2018) and improve school safety, especially after the Valentine's Day (Ibid; Feb. 15, 2018) shooting that left 17 people dead.

Tawnell D. Hobbs reports, "Since 1990, there have 32 shootings in schools [Ibid] where at least three people were killed or injured according to a Wall Street Journal review [Ibid]."  That is an average of one school shooting per year.  That is one shooting too many.  There is no rhyme or reason for it.  You cannot point to a particular locale or reason why it is what it is.  The only thing you can do is try learn from each occurrence and plan for it, which is what the Bush Elementary School and the 97,999 other schools are trying to do.  The students and their allies are not waiting around for the next shooting, they are taking to the streets.  Tomorrow, students around the nation are expected to take part in anti-gun violence protests (Ibid; Mar. 13, 2018).  Please support them whether or not you are a parent, teacher, administrator, school staff member, own a gun or not.

It is not just the Bush Elementary School that is designing in safety measures.  Ms. Hobbs writes, "School administrators are pairing law-enforcement personnel or safety experts with architectural firms to design new campus and renovate older ones."

For example, a school opened last year in Quincy, Illinois.  Superintendent Roy Webb told The Journal "which allow a security officer to lock down building sections with a push of a button.,  He said, We can mitigate a lot of risks.

 Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law (Ibid) a bill that commits $400 million toward school safety and mental-health services.  Minnesota's governor is following suit, asking the state legislature to set aside $20.9 million, meanwhile Maryland's governor is earmarking $175 for improvements such as panic buttons, security camera, funding for school resource officers and counselors.  Federal efforts to increase school security are also in process (Ibid. Mar.9, 2018).

These greater push to increase school security does come with this caveat.  Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safet Center in California, told Ms. Hobbs,

When you have someone who's a committed shooter, they're going to find a way to get on the campus.... I just tell schools to do everything you can.

Wise words.

In the meantime, the George W. Bush Elementary School is the picture of happy calm.  The corridors are decorated with student artwork and inspirational messages.  The students move in an orderly fashion, single file, passing the big presidential seal in the foyer, under the watchful gaze of discreetly placed security camera.  Principal Maricela Helm is pleased with campus.  She is happy that the security measures do not take away from the warm and inviting atmosphere of the school, which opened in 2016 with room for 900 students.  She told The Journal, We've developed a good culture while being more alert, more ready.