When Adam Lane became principal at Haines City High School eight years ago, there was little to stop an attacker from entering the school, which sits alongside orange groves, a livestock farm and a cemetery in Central Florida.
“You could drive right up, walk right in the front office,” Mr. Lane said.
Today, the school is surrounded by a 10-foot fence, and access to the grounds is carefully controlled via specific gates. Visitors must press a buzzer to be let into the front office. More than 40 cameras monitor key areas.
New federal data released on Thursday offers insight into the many, growing ways that schools have amped up security over the past five years, as the country has recorded three of the deadliest school shootings on record, and as other, more routine gun incidents on school grounds have also become more frequent.
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The uptick in school gun violence comes amid a broader increase in active shooter incidents and gun deaths in the United States. Overall, schools are still quite safe.
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Yet, the growing toll has put more onus on schools to not only educate, feed and counsel children, but also protect them from harm. Best practices include simple solutions like locking classroom doors and limiting access to schools.
But experts say many “deterrent” measures — like metal detectors, clear backpacks or having armed staff members on campus — have not been shown to reliably prevent shootings. Other tools, like security cameras or panic buttons, may help interrupt violence in the moment but are unlikely to forestall shootings.
“There is not a lot of evidence that they work,” Marc Zimmerman, co-director of the National Center for School Safety at the University of Michigan, said of many of the safety measures. “If you press a panic button, it probably means somebody is already shooting or threatening to shoot. That is not prevention.”