How Can We Be Better Prepared?

Co-authored by: Becky Behrends, M.D. and Joe Brandis

In a previous article we discussed the main observations and conclusions from the year long investigation final report of the 2021 Oxford High School shooting in Michigan.  As noted, the shooter was a 15 yr old student who shot and killed four students and shot six other students as well as a teacher, who all survived.

The details of what occurred on the day of the shooting can be reviewed in that article.

What can be done to improve the security and safety in our schools?

Armed Security Guards Needed

The most glaring deficiency was that there was no armed security guard on duty on the day of the shooting.  The guard had the day off.  The school resource officer (SRO) was off site also.  Apparently, there was no plan for backup.

It is true that shootings do occur where there are armed guards but case by case analysis from 1998 to 2018 shows that most mass shootings occur in gun free zones.  This includes schools as well.  In manifestos of the shooters, they often talk about why they pick their particular targets for the mayhem they intend to perpetrate.  They often take into account the likelihood of being confronted by armed resistance.

An example is what occurred in S. Carolina in 2016.  An eighth grader, who had recently been expelled from school, was arrested after attempting a mass shooting at an elementary school playground.  His handgun jammed after the first shot, but he told authorities that he had planned to kill “around 50 or 60” people.  He explained in his confession that he chose this specific elementary school instead of his own middle school in large part because it had no armed security, and he calculated that he would have at least 15 minutes before an armed response arrived. 

In the March 27, 2023 Covenant Christian school shooting in Nashville, it was noted by the police chief that the shooter had a different school in mind but changed her mind because “there was too much security” at the school.  She chose Covenant instead.  It was 14 minutes before the police arrived.

PDK international  in 2022 conducted a survey which noted that 80% of parents support having armed police in schools.

Those who oppose the presence of armed security guards in schools complain about turning schools into “armed fortresses”.  SRO’s are associated with more suspensions of students and disciplinary actions that fall more heavily on blacks, males and disabled students.  This is  referred to this as “criminalization of typical teenage misbehavior.”  Opponents say that  SRO’s cannot fully monitor all points of access in schools with multiple entrances. They also say that school shooters are often suicidal and thus they don’t care about resistance from armed guards who they view as an incentive rather than deterrent.

Opponents say that armed SRO’s are also costly in terms of salaries and liability insurance.  In the Walled Lake, Michigan school district armed SRO’s cost about $150,000 for salary and benefits.  But there are retired police and military who can be contracted for about $80,000.  There are programs which will provide grants to pay for SRO’s, especially if they have dogs.  There should be SRO’s in all the schools with extras to cover for when SRO’s are absent.  The cost is minimal overall to the school budget.  How much is too much to pay for the safety of your children?

In the Walled Lake school district in Michigan, one school board member who opposes armed security in schools said, “they can’t shoot straight anyway”. It is interesting that there is an armed guard at the school board meetings in this district.  We should afford the same protection for students that we do for fans at sporting events, concerts, for VIP’s or our school board meetings.

As mentioned, though school shootings may occur where there are armed guards, common sense should dictate that as long as there are shooters who search for sites with the absence of armed resistance, the benefit of the doubt should be given to afford the maximum protection for school kids.

Studies opposing armed guards often miss the point that even if the shooter succeeds in shooting, it usually takes an armed individual to stop it.  The logic that if you can’t have a zero body count, then armed resistance is not effective is faulty.  Try using this reasoning for the parent of the 5th or 6th child that may be shot.  Time is of the essence to keep down the body count  

The immediate problem in dealing with potential school shootings is to provide security and protection.  The constant emphasis on changing police policies, gun control, getting at the social roots of criminal activity may not produce results for months or years. The first priority should be security and protection. As the saying goes, “it’s better to have it and not need than to need it and not have it.”

Secure Points of Entry

Every window should be shatter-proof if not bullet proof.

All doors should lock from the inside and be sturdy enough to not be opened.  Someone should check the doors daily.  HVAC systems should be updated to prevent teachers form propping their doors open.  Teachers should have key fobs and electric unlocking badges.  

Proper Training

The Oxford school district had a threat assessment policy in place but there were insufficient building level guidelines to assure that proper procedures would be implemented.  There should have been a low threshold for notifying the principal and administrative officials of conduct that might cause harm.  The shooter had drawn pictures of a crime scene body with multiple holes in it and blood flowing.  This suggests thoughts of homicide, not suicide.  A full threat assessment was not triggered as the Principal was not notified.  This was not a close call- red flags were staring everybody in the face!  Students and teachers also should be trained NOT to go into bathrooms which cannot be locked and with no escape exit.

It should be noted that school board officials are responsible for ensuring that the superintendent carries out the policies set by the board which includes training in threat assessment with guidelines established.  Why not create an auditing board consisting of police, parents, psychologists, teachers, administrative officials and school board members to look at the security policies and procedures in detail?   School board members should not be kept out of the loop by the superintendent with a  “we’ve got this” brush off,  when no details are provided to them.  

There also needs to be a proper suicide intervention policy which was lacking at Oxford and was not carried out. Oxford mental health professionals were unaware of the threat assessment process and they were not instructed that concerning behavior should be reported to the principal or assistant principal. 

Connect the Dots and Err on the Side of Caution

With all the information teachers were bringing to administration, why not have this input into a computer to be disseminated immediately to the principal and assistant principals?  Multiple eyes would then start connecting the dots instead of one person at a time.  This avoids the subjective “I don’t want to get this kid in trouble” hesitancy.  

The administrative officials certainly had enough reasonable suspicion to search the shooter’s backpack without permission.  They didn’t necessarily need to have permission of the shooter or the parents.  Their hesitancy because of concerns about “privacy invasion” was totally overshadowed by the conduct of the shooter.  Had they searched the backpack, they would have found a gun and ammunition and the tragic shooting outcome would have been averted.

Someone needs to be watching the surveillance video cameras!

An armed security guard was not present to do this on the day of the shooting.  This would have given valuable info on where the shooter was and to notify students via the PA system where NOT TO GO in the building.  

Parents need to be proactive and make sure their school districts are following best practices in making their schools safe and secure.  Don’t wait until something tragic happens.  Let’s not allow this detailed final report to be ignored and tossed into the dust bin of history. That would be tragic indeed.

Join the discussion on Telegram:


We will continue to report on election integrity,
fill out the form below if you want to receive notifications about new reports.

Contact Us