Gun Violence. It’s a topic that has been dominating the headlines starting with the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and then ignited a national bonfire of outrage and sadness with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting from Dec. 14, 2012. It’s continued with more shootings, including the recent event at Lone Star College in Houston on Jan. 22, 2013. The issue has become even hotter, as now our schools have become seemingly common settings for mass shootings.
With each of these tragic shootings, I hear people ask about things like warning signs, and question who knew about these potential threats – and most importantly, why nothing was done. These are the same questions I ask myself.
The other trend we’re seeing explode on the national scene, is the question who is to blame? This has triggered a national debate on the controversial issue of gun control, video game violence, and mental health. While I’ve gotten caught up in the whirlwind of these important topics we face as a society, I also couldn’t help but wonder if we’re using all of the tools and technology that is available today to keep students, and our children safe.
It’s interesting to note, that when students are provided a way to confidentially share information with school officials about problems – they will! And this information is often used to stop crime, solve cases, and avoid tragedies like suicides. For example, Douglas County School District in Colorado has helped prevent a growing number of suicides by having a trusted mobile app available where students can provide tips to school officials. You can read more about this success story here.
But having the right tools in place often times isn’t enough. Take the Lone Star College shooting for example. According coverage in The Huffington Post the Lone Star College System had both an emergency alert system in place to warn students of possible scenarios like this, as well as an active shooter preparedness plan. It appears there was a break-down in both systems.
For example, according to accounts, many students learned of the shooting from media, or from the college web site, even though they had the emergency alert application installed on their phones. One theory of the failure of the emergency alert system is that many of the buildings on campus have limited, to no cell reception.
Secondarily, the particular situation at Lone Star College did not fit the definition of an active shooter in the preparedness manual, potentially stopping action, or creating some confusion. So while the institution had taken steps to prepare for this type of scary scenario through technology and training, some of these unexpected problems led to unaware students, and possibly confused staff, and local police. Luckily it didn’t turn into a broader tragedy.
Finally, in terms of preventing these crimes in the future, there is likely to be new legislation, as well as national programs to keep students and our children safer at school. We also expect to see a list of lessons learned in how to better respond to these situations in the future. While we know we can never fully prevent these tragedies, we know we can do more; we know we can do better.