It’s back-to-school season, which for many parents means a return to worrying about the rising instances of gun violence in American schools. The threat of an active shooter, although statistically low, remains a concern for many parents and students as another new school year begins.
To combat these concerns, and increase campus safety, some schools are now being designed and upgraded with these fears in mind.
School Security: Bulletproof Buildings
While the fundamentals of school design still remain the same — building individual classrooms, creating hallways that can accommodate large groups of children moving between periods and designing common areas that are both open and functional — there are a few things experts are doing differently when it comes to designing schools for kids known as “Generation Lockdown.” The biggest change: they’re making it harder for gunmen to access their targets.
A Famous Example
Sandy Hook Elementary School is an example of these new designs in action. According to an article that appeared on Slate earlier this year, the updated elementary school features bulletproof glass, doors are magnetized and controlled by a “centralized lockdown button” which allows administrators to close them all simultaneously, and the building is surrounded by a rain garden which acts as a natural barrier to keep intruders from approaching through the exterior windows.
Although the school is heavily fortified, visitors say you wouldn’t know it just by walking through the building. Security features are carefully hidden and serve dual-purposes, helping the building to retain the appearance of being a place of learning instead of the impenetrable fortress that it strives to be.
An Expert Opinion on School Safety
School security expert Rob Huberty is the chief operating officer for ZeroEyes, an AI-powered video analytics company with technology that detects weapons and recognizes faces in real-time. He explains to Parentology that while security should be a priority at schools, it shouldn’t feel like, well, security.
“We need to leverage technology in order to have a safer, more open schools,” Huberty says. He suggests using areas that are naturally designed to channel foot traffic as a way to leverage security systems. “The use of cameras, lighting, and pathways leading into the school are simple, cost-effective ways to make schools safer.”
Above all else though, Huberty doesn’t believe a “safe school” should look any different. “Schools need to remain a place for nurturing and growth,” he says. “They should not become impenetrable fortresses.”