Researchers told the Times that one reason after-school shootings don’t draw as much attention could be that while shootings during school hours are rarer, they are “deadlier.” Compared to the 19 killed during sporting event-related after-school activities, “50 have died in active-shooter incidents during the school day” during the same time period. Media coverage, location, and the demographic traits (such as race and class) of those affected by the shootings also contribute to how much awareness is spread, experts told the Times. Victims of shootings during the school day have been predominantly white and from the suburbs, while most after-school shootings occur in larger cities, with predominantly black victims. Michael-Sean Spence, the director of policy and implementation at Everytown for Gun Safety, told the Times that perception and media coverage both play a big role—and can sometimes be a barrier for communities seeking to improve public safety.
Even as campus security continues to increase during school hours, with security and IDs required to walk into different buildings and classes, after-school activities often remain unmonitored, despite the fact that many of these activities are open to the public, or at least any adult or student willing to buy a ticket. “In an event like this where you expect people to come and have a good time and not have any issues, it’s just one of those things,” Atlanta Public Schools police chief Ron Applin told the Times. “Anybody could get a gun into the stadium, probably.” So how, exactly, can schools improve their after-hours security, and ensure that students and the public can enjoy these events without fear?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ data for the 2015-2016 school year, 94% of public schools reported they monitored doors and secured building access and 68% required staff and faculty to wear ID, while less than 10% used metal detectors as a safety measure. Often, schools opt to purchase metal detectors only after shootings have occurred on campus, or when weapons are regularly confiscated in classrooms. In the Department of Homeland Security’s Guide for Preventing and Protecting Against Gun Violence, the government agency recommends metal detectors as a means of risk management. Some community advocated find metal detectors troublesome, comparing their use to a detention center. Yet in many instances, metal detectors have helped schools prevent gun violence.
Of course, metal detectors will not resolve the problems that lead to someone bringing a gun to school, but can assist in preventing casualties and can make officials aware of the weapons present. If the goal is to ensure children’s safety, maybe they are worth it. At the very least, it’s a start.
Do you think metal detectors prevent school violence? Should they be utilized more?