August 10, 2022
Schools do not need more resource officers, armed
guards or for that matter armed teachers. Schools need to become adept at
gathering information, sharing intelligence and, most importantly, making sense
of what they learn.
In Uvalde, Texas we’ve learned far too well that
good guys—many good guys—with guns can’t always stop a bad guy with a
gun. In Florida, Nikolas Cruz is on trial for his life after killing 17
people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. The school’s resource
officer is also criminally charged for failing to enter the school and confront
Nearly every school in America has prepared for a
shooting. The Washington Post reported that more than 96 percent of public
schools hold active-shooter drills.
Active shooter training, although needed, is a
reaction to a shooting not an effort to prevent one.
“A pricey, multilayered security plan can be undone
by something as small as an open door and a school police force can fail to
prevent a worst-case scenario,” according to the Post.
The idea that more police officers, more metal
detectors, more drills and more guns will stop school massacres—has stretched
the bounds of credulity. That hasn’t impeded the rush to bring even more
guns into schools.
According to the National Conference of State
Legislatures, nearly 60 percent of states allow individuals other than police
or security officials to carry guns on school grounds.
In Florida, according to The New York Times, more
than 1,300 school staff members serve as armed guards in 45 school districts,
out of 74 in the state. The program was created after the Marjory Stoneman
In Texas at least 402 school districts participate
in a program that allows designated people, including school staff members, to
be armed, according to the Times. This is the same state in which more than 400
armed police officers from the Uvalde Police Department, Uvalde School Police,
Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office, among others, failed to enter the building for 78
minutes with an active shooter inside.
In Ohio, employees have for years been allowed to
carry guns on school grounds with the consent of the local school
board, if they completed the same 700 hours of police officer training
required of law enforcement officials or security officers who carry firearms
After Uvalde, according to the Times, the
legislature, with the acquiescence of Gov. Mike DeWine, enacted a new law that
provides for a maximum of 24 hours of training before teachers can carry guns
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the
Republican nominee for governor, is proposing legislation to allow school
employees to be armed on school property if they have a concealed carry permit
and complete a firearm training course.
School attacks are often the result of meticulous
planning. With planning comes the potential for leaving clues. Jeff Kaas,
author of “Columbine: A True Crime Story,” wrote in the Post that 81
percent of school shooters tell someone about their plans.
In addition, most attackers engaged in some behavior
prior to the attack that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.
An attack involving time-consuming preparation, and a planner who is talking about his lethal intentions, lends itself to being detected and prevented, if those close to the planner—teachers, administrators and staff—know what to look for.
Training and education are keys to prevention.
Suspicious conduct, indirect threats, even alarming expressions in school
assignments need to be documented. Information must be shared so that a
coherent snapshot can be created of a potentially volatile situation.
School districts need to collect, document and share
intelligence. To that end, schools should establish fusion coordinators, “Intel
Officers,” who can synthesize documented activity occurring in school, outside
of school and on social media networks. Teachers, administrators and staff
should have regular roundtable discussions about unusual behavior, threats,
bullying and social isolation of students.
Here is an example of how important information can
fall through the cracks without a designated “Intel Officer.” John Smith is in
12th grade. His little sister tells the school nurse that her brother has
a journal where he draws weird pictures of guns. The nurse passes the
information along to the school counselor.
A classmate of John tells a teacher John said he has
thousands of rounds of ammunition for target practice. The teacher
mentions it to the assistant principal.
Another classmate tells his basketball coach that he
overheard John tell someone that January 10 is going be a big day at the high
school. John’s social media posts include photographs of him in camouflage,
military garb, body armor and what looks like a semiautomatic weapon.
The teacher, school counselor, coach and assistant
principal never get together to share their information. No one is
monitoring social media posts.
If John’s school had an intelligence officer
designated to receive all reports of unusual or alarming information, the intel
officer would have been able to connect the dots and make sense of the multiple
bits of information. The intel officer does a follow-up internet search and an
intervention is made, possibly averting a tragedy.
The accumulation of intelligence can and must be
done without violating a student’s civil rights, and in compliance with Family
Educational Rights Privacy Act and other state and federal regulations.
Would a school district be better served with
another armed resource officer or an intelligence office armed with a laptop,
cell phone, email and some intelligence software serving as a central point of
contact synthesizing information from teachers, staff, students and outside
Intelligence has been cultivated and used
effectively in this country’s anti-terrorism efforts. An intelligence model
would not only help prevent a violent rampage, but also assist school districts
more effectively reach out to students who need support, counseling or more
Opinion contributor Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel
with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly and George. P.C. and the former district
attorney of Lawrence County, Pa. His work appears frequently on the
Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may follow him on twitter @MatthewTMangino,
or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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