Active shooter incidences hit too close to home for many, so they are always top of mind for families and parents, and rightly so. The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a horrific reminder of the increase in overall school violence—an increase of 113 percent this past school year. “This past school year included at least 279 incidents of violence compared to 131 events in the 2016-2017 school year,” says Amanda Klinger ’06, co-founder and director of operations at Educator’s School Safety Network, an Ohio-based nonprofit.
Klinger and her mother, Dr. Amy Klinger, director of programs and co-founder, have done of lot of research into school-based violent incidents and threats. In fact, their work was featured on the front page of USA Today last year and has been cited all over the news, from The New York Times to The Washington Post to NPR because, unfortunately, the topic of school safety is not going away.
“We talk about school safety from an educational perspective,” Klinger says. “When we have these awful, large-scale tragedies, people are reactionary, and you can understand why. But what we need to do is be really strategic.”
Through research and programs, what the Klingers have found is that the go-to intervention tools schools use, such as metal detectors, do not have the effect teachers, administrators, and school districts are looking for in terms of violence prevention. “We’re always pushing back against this movement to surveillance and security states of schools—we’re spending a lot of money on locks, hardware, and metal detectors,” Klinger explains. “There is no data to support the efficacy of those things, and we truly don’t know the impact on our kids.” Klinger advocates, instead, for things like threat assessment management, climate and culture initiatives, social—emotional learning, and positive behavioral support, all of which have a mountain of evidence to support their effectiveness. Klinger suggests that parents ask for a school safety plan that is helpful for kids, as opposed to security cameras or buzz-in systems, as well as training and professional development for teachers and staff.
“Educational professionals went into the field because they want to help kids,” Klinger says. “Because we’re running schools, not prisons, we need to provide professional development that speaks educators’ language.”