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Preventative measures for school safety.

AFTER A 14-YEAR-OLD STUDENT OPENED FIRE ON HIS peers and teachers at a downtown Cleveland high school in October--ending the rampage only by turning the gun on himself--gun rights activists immediately began calling for legislation to allow teachers to carry firearms in school.

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But safety and security experts say that bringing more guns into our nation's schools--and even mechanics such as security systems and emergency notification broadcasting--do not address the root causes of how and why students engage in violent behavior in the first place.

Curt Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, says that districts must focus on maximizing prevention efforts from the get-go, rather than, say, declaring a temporary state of heightened alert following a tragedy, then reverting "back to the status quo." He adds that one of the most important practices for administrators and security professionals to get in the habit of is taking seriously and responding to student tips.

Says Lavarello, "It's better to look into 100 reports that turn out to be false" than have to deal later with something that could have been prevented.

Michael Corcoran, an expert in workplace and school violence and an outside consultant for Vance International, a trusted investigation and security consulting firm, says that the culture surrounding today's children is markedly different from the one that baby boomers grew up in, with more of an emphasis on collective, team-based learning experiences.

"It's a people-oriented world for students," he says, "and with that comes a great need for supervision and structure."

Therefore, Corcoran contends that educators, administrators and community members should reach out to loners--students who by no means are programmed to "snap" but can always benefit from adult involvement and support--and adopt measures to monitor and examine other behaviors that could lead to violence.

The School Safety Advocacy Council also recently released its 2007 National School Safety Survey, in which more than 75 percent of its respondents said a national mandatory school crime reporting law would help efforts to improve school safety. The survey results are available at www.schoolsafety911.com.
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Title Annotation:BRIEFINGS: Security Update
Author:Miners, Zach
Publication:District Administration
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Words:346
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