The Columbine 10th anniversary arrives on April 20, 2009. Anniversaries offer us time for reflection on lessons learned and future directions.
The legacy of Columbine at its tenth anniversary is a mixed bag of lessons learned and implemented, with many glaring gaps and a lot of work remaining.
The good news is that progress made on school safety in the past decade has included improved school climate, better threat assessment protocols, enhanced physical security measures, and a heightened awareness of the importance of school safety. School leaders have also created crisis plans and teams, added new drills, and enhanced relationships with first responders.
The bad news is that while many schools have invested money in security technology, they have invested less time and effort in their people. The first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly-alert staff and student body. A reasonable amount of time is needed to reach this goal.
Time and training for school safety and emergency planning is harder to come by than money in many districts. Time for the delivery of prevention programs is even tighter, all due to competition for instructional time.
Today’s federal budget is thinner for a number of school safety programs than it was right after Columbine. Local school budgets continue to decrease. School safety dollar needs typically lose out to academic needs when internal battling over the budget occurs in a district.
The end result: school safety professionals are increasingly competing for both money and time, and in many districts they are losing on both accounts.
Both resources and leadership are needed to make safety sustainable in local school districts. We have seen schools with strong leadership on safety but few resources. We have seen schools with the resources but weak leadership on safety. Simply one or the other (or neither) will not result in a meaningful, long-term approach to school safety.