Hardening measures won’t increase safety, waste money

In the last five years, there have been 25 shootings at a U.S. high school that resulted in at least one fatality. RBHS’s hardening policy, which mainly includes converting to a single entrance with a staff member monitoring those who come in, would have stopped none of those.

While the intention to increase student safety is noble, Columbia Public Schools (CPS) is wasting $200,000 of taxpayer money on an ineffective policy that would prove far more valuable to spend on increasing the number of outreach counselors.

Dr. James Price, a professor at the University of Toledo and consultant for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted a review in June of the available literature on the effects of hardening from 2000 to 2018. The study failed to find any hardening programs or practices that reduced firearm violence.
“School officials should not give in to political pressures to ‘do something’ when that ‘something’ is likely to be ineffective and wasteful of limited school resources,” Price said.

Even analytically, the hardening occurring would be futile. Putting a school official at the door to determine who is and is not suspicious is utterly useless as every school shooter at a high school in the last five years has either been a current student or a former student pretending to be a current one. Additionally, all the entrances to the school are unlocked before school and after school. During lunch and passing periods, the North and Main entrances are unlocked, totaling 83 minutes during the course of the school day.

Add to that the times before and after school and practically the only shooter that would be stopped from entering the school is an adult trying to openly carry a gun into the school during third period.

Presenting such an ineffective policy as a boon to safety can create a false sense of security that discourages RBHS and CPS from adopting better protective measures. Furthermore, the entrance alteration will take up a massive amount of money the district should be spending on more outreach counselors.
The National Association of School Psychologists explained in a Feb. 2018 press release that improving mental health services within schools is a critical factor in preventing violent acts directed at schools.

“Schools play a critical and irreplaceable role in keeping students safe and supporting mental health,” the statement said. “Providing ongoing access to mental health care promotes school safety.”
For the entirety of the RBHS student body, there is one full-time outreach counselor: Lesley Thalhuber. Just one person for more than 2,000 students dedicated specifically to providing mental health help. Rather than squandering money on an entrance system, the school should invest in services that would prevent a shooting from happening in the first place.

School shootings almost always have indications. More school counselors would help identify these warning signs and address them adequately.

RBHS should take steps to prevent school shootings, but hardening is a misguided attempt; it merely lulls parents, students and the administration into a false sense of security likely preventing CPS from taking substantial further action. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a policy that makes students no safer, the district should allocate money to improving mental health services for students and increasing the number of outreach counselors.

Should RBHS have kept the old parking and entrance system? Let us know in the comments below.