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School safety: What works and what doesn't




Waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images

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A 19-year-old has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, after shooting up a Florida high school Wednesday.

President Trump spoke about the massacre Thursday morning, saying that no child or teacher should be in danger in an American school.

"No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning," he said. 

For many it's becoming less difficult to believe that the nation is, yet again, talking about a school shooting where teachers and kids were targeted. 

Wednesday's incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, just an hour north of Miami, is one of too many events of this nature. And it once again raises an important question:

What can be done to protect children who are just going to class?

Ken Trump is a school security expert and a consultant with National School Safety and Security Services. In a conversation with Take Two Thursday, he outlined three prevention methods that work — and one that doesn't.

Communication is key

"We know that the number one way we learn of weapons or a plot on campus is when a kid comes forward and tells somebody," the security expert said. 

It's an issue of school climate, where a kid will come forward and talk to an adult they trust to let them know of a plot or a weapon. We can't stress that enough. That was the number one lesson from Columbine: getting someone to come forward and realize that they're not snitching, they may be saving a life including their own. 

Make drills a part of everyday life

"Drills that we stress today need to be balanced and realistic and not cross the line of reasonableness to the point where they do more harm," Ken Trump said. 

Focus on the fundamentals. On your lockdowns, don't just do them at 9:10 in the morning, do them between class change, during lunch periods, when students arrive and at dismissal — and vary them. 

Do you need to do one every week? Certainly not. But several times a year -- three or four times. Change them up a little bit so that people think on their feet. 

These are schools. It's about education. We're integrating security into education, not integrating education into security, so it's a delicate balancing act.

Keep the conversation going

"Focus on the how not the wow," said security expert Trump. 

Remember that school safety has to be a part of the climate and conversation and culture of the school, not just when there's a high-profile incident in our headlines and in our conversations, but down the road six months or six years after an incident occurs. Is it still part of your daily conversation and your daily culture in your school? It's very easy for safety to fall to the back burner when there's not a crisis. We tend to overreact when there is one, and then we forget about it again. 

Metal detectors don't work

"Too often we see the facade of security," the security expert said. 

Even after a high-profile incident, for a period schools may set up some new procedures and screening at the front door, and a lot of that, quite frankly, is smoke and mirrors.

(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)