My last post detailed what we learned about threat assessment from the 2013 Arapahoe High School shooting of 17-year old Claire Davis. As stated previously, I never want to place blame or criticize anyone’s safety efforts, as we all face challenges when it comes to putting the best safety practices in place (or even knowing what they are, as this field is constantly evolving).
The report, produced by Michael Dorn of Safe Havens International, was based on the findings of 11 experienced analysts. It cites a number of properly implemented safety practices at both Arapahoe High School and in the Littleton Public School District. It also details areas of school security that warrant attention. For the purpose of learning and further enhancing the safety of all schools, this post will address those safety practices that we need to implement in our own districts. Failure to do so can expose us to danger and liability.
Post-incident report shows how to increase school security
- A more thorough law enforcement investigation of the attacker’s prior threats may have decreased the likelihood of an attack. Best practice dictates investigating, interviewing the student about threats made, and gathering additional information from parents and others who interact with the person of concern.
- The attacker’s mother did not report her son’s threats to kill a female student to the school administrators, deputy, or her son’s mental health providers. Educating parents about warning signs and the process of reporting concerns can help prevent this from occurring.
- Although the school had extensively promoted its Safe2Tell hotline, no student or staff member reported the shooter’s threats to it, despite multiple students having concerns about his behavior. A student later reported that he did not call the Safe2Tell line because he did not realize that the attacker was a danger. This is consistent with one of the reasons students don’t report concerns as identified by the 2008 Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education Bystander Study. It is critical to provide student training that clarifies reportable concerns and reporting procedures.
- The Arapahoe High School campus was left unsupervised during lunchtime on the day of the shooting because all school safety and security personnel ate lunch at the same time, clustered in two groups. It is recommended that lunch times be staggered so security is monitored at all times, and that school security staff be supervised by a qualified district-level security director.
- The attacker entered the school through an unsecured door that should have been locked. The door was propped open about once a week despite staff and students having been instructed repeatedly not to prop doors open.
- There is no record of the school having a security assessment conducted by an outside team. It is recommended that such an evaluation be conducted every 3-5 years.
- The many policies, guidelines and procedures regarding school security and safety may have overwhelmed administrators in light of their other important responsibilities. This is not at all unusual and underscores a need for districts to carve out adequate time dedicated to training, discussion, rehearsal, and review of safety plans and protocols.
- The security camera system in place at the time of the shooting was in need of improvement and updating. It is recommended that security equipment maintenance be assigned to specific staff positions and occur on an ongoing basis.
- Confusion around the “lockout/lockdown” protocol activated on the day of the attack resulted in a number of classroom doors not being locked in areas where gunfire could not be heard. According to Michael Dorn, this type of protocol has resulted in a “high fail rate” during simulations. It should be noted, however, that Littleton Public Schools “met or exceeded the normal standard of care for school-level emergency drills at the time of the incident.”
The report contains much more detail than this post and I encourage you to review these recommendations with your own safety team to ensure that you are making your school the safest it can be. If you need assistance, or just want to discuss whether you’re on the right track, consider an inexpensive 1-to-1 consulting session. To learn more, simply read this.