Overbearing School Security Can Traumatize Youngsters, Fox Argues


As the second anniversary of the Newtown, ct., school shooting approaches, school officials are often all too quick to push high-grade measures onto our children in terms of oversecuring schools against the threat of a shooting, writes Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox in USA Today. The National Center for Education Statistics says two-thirds of public schools nationwide employ surveillance cameras; among secondary schools the figure reaches over 80 percent. A majority of upper-level schools employ drug-sniffing dogs and school resource officers; more than 10 percent use metal detectors either daily or on a random basis.

Such security approaches might be prudent in schools located in certain high-crime areas of the city, but they are also commonplace in suburban and small-town school buildings. Understandably, parents want desperately to know that their children are protected from harm while at school. Though the figure has declined in the two years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, more than one-fourth of parents surveyed by Gallup in August reported being fearful for their child’s physical safety while at school. Despite these concerns and notwithstanding the handful of school shootings, students are extremely safe, Foxs argues. In fact, the risk of serious violence at school is significantly lower than most other times and places. This is not to suggest that we should abandon all efforts to safeguard children while they are at school, only that security should be low-key rather than in your face. Lockdown drills and armed guards roaming the halls can traumatize youngsters, Fox says. No one should sense that he’s being watched minute-by-minute. That could create a climate counterproductive to learning.

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