As students troop into new classrooms and teachers put finishing touches on lesson plans, concern over school safety in an age of mass shootings is at an all-time high, reports USA Today. About one-third of today’s parents fear for their child’s safety in school, finds a poll by Phi Delta Kappa. That’s the highest proportion since 1998 and a steep increase from 2013, when the number was only 12 percent. Schools are taking action to confront the reality that they could be the next target. From sophisticated surveillance technology to programs that train and arm staff, many school boards have new safety measures. “Twenty years ago, we weren’t even trained to do active-shooter drills in the school,” said Curtis Lavarello of the School Safety Advocacy Network, which helps schools assess vulnerabilities and develop safety plans. “Our primary goal now in law enforcement is to make sure that the school is equipped to handle the very worst of the worst.”
The Parkland, Fl., school shooting and a burst of activism by survivors cemented gun violence in the public conversation for longer than usual. “I’ve never seen this phenomenon,” Lavarello said. Parkland “happened last February, and it still seems as fresh in everybody’s mind today as it did right after it occurred.” Requests for help with safety plans jumped 60 percent since last year. Parkland students returned to classes Aug. 15 amid guards, locks and 52 new security cameras. Santa Fe, Tx., High School, site of a shooting that killed 10 in May, greeted students with metal detectors and armed officers Monday. Charleston County, S.C., schools are experimenting with bullet-resistant doors. New Hampshire’s Londonderry school district allows teachers to press a panic button on their computers and alert authorities. A Haverhill, Ma., school installed a network that identifies the sound of gunfire and alerts officials.