Brooks and Messer: Securing Our Schools Can't Wait
Attacks on our schools, from Columbine to Sandy Hook, have shocked communities, devastated families and exposed serious security gaps. Rather than stand idly by, it is our collective responsibility to secure our schools and prevent these kinds of horrific events that affect the hearts and minds of our young people and sear our national conscience.
The reality is our schools may be more at risk today than ever before. With the rise of global terrorist networks and a lack of meaningful public policy to address mental illness, schools are increasingly susceptible targets for disturbed individuals seeking to attack vulnerable populations.
Thankfully, our own state and local leaders are pioneering the school security landscape. In 2016, Indiana approved a new law to establish minimum standards and best practices for school emergency response systems. This is a great first step, but many challenges still remain.
A majority of our school buildings are outdated and unprepared for the types of violence we have seen darken the doors of our classrooms. On average, the main instructional buildings of America’s approximately 100,000 K-12 schools are more than 40 years old. Many of these older buildings lack even minimal security features.
Emergency preparedness by schools is often treated on a reactive case-by-case basis as threats arise or after tragedies occur. There is no wider strategy to provide schools with guidance and proven tools to keep students safe.
As your voices in Congress, we’re serving on the bipartisan Congressional School Safety Caucus to drive a national conversation about how to proactively address these challenges and best equip schools to respond to modern-day threats. The goal of this discussion is to bring together education, law enforcement, government and private-sector leaders to share best practices, increase awareness of available solutions and work to develop funding strategies so schools can prioritize student safety.
Already, this group of leaders has produced bipartisan legislation that seeks to help schools across the country modernize and implement improved security measures, such as training for staff and students. We’ve also introduced legislation calling on the Departments of Homeland Security and Education to create a national strategy to help schools protect themselves against acts of terrorism and other emergencies.
Of course, we know that many of the best solutions are going to come from the folks on-the-ground; the parents, teachers, administrators, security professionals, law enforcement and emergency personnel who work hard every day to safeguard our students.
Addressing school security challenges is not an easy task, but it could not be more important. Protecting our children is a responsibility that requires all of us at the table, working together.
We just marked Safe Schools Week and in that spirit, we encourage all community members – whether a parent, teacher, police officer, city council member or just a concerned American – to join the conversation and push for results. We cannot wait for another attack to remind us what’s at stake.
NOTE FOR MEDIA: Brooks and Messer will host a roundtable discussion at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, with school administrators and superintendents, law enforcement officers, Indiana Department of Homeland Security personnel and school security providers to talk about how to improve safety and security for Hoosier students.