Across the country schools now work to prevent a shooting in their classrooms. There are also drills in case someone does open fire in a school building. Bridge Senior Writer Ron French explored what schools in Michigan are doing to make schools more secure and to prepare in case of an active shooter.
French says one thing he heard from teachers is their biggest fear is that they are notified about an active shooter while one or more of their students is in the hallway. “You’re supposed to lock the door, shut it and not open it for anyone…even if those kids that they recognize their voices, they’re not supposed to open the door because they’re endangering the rest of the class.”
Bridge examined school safety around the 20th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. French says the thinking about active shooter response has changed over the last years 20 years. He says the old protocols required hiding in corners away from windows and remaining quiet. French says new strategies include locking the doors of classrooms. He says if an intruder with a gun comes in room, students and teachers are supposed to run, throw things, and try to make a break for the door.
In the small Branch County town of Bronson, French found students stacking desks in front of a door as part of their active shooter drill. He says that’s not uncommon. French says the teacher also had a large metal stapler to hit a potential gunman with and a can of hornet spray that could reach about 20 feet.
Schools are also making their buildings more secure. French says locking outside doors is now a standard practice. At many buildings, visitors have to buzz in, often a camera is in place so someone in the office can see who wants to come in. Many schools only have one entrance.
French says school security is a multi-billion dollar industry. Glen Lake in northern Leelanau County had installed gunshot detectors that cost more than $150,000. But one teacher French talked to questioned whether more money should be spent on mental health for students. French says “we know that a lot of this is perpetrated by students, is getting students mental health care at least as equally important as some security measures that schools are taking?”