Americans can't 'invent our way out of' school shootings, expert says, which is why bulletproof backpacks and safe rooms aren't the answer.

  • As school shootings continue to plague the US, schools are buying rapid-deploy safe rooms and other devices to protect kids.

  • But an education expert says there's little evidence that these things work during mass shootings.

  • Training staff in "behavioral threat assessment management," a tactic used by the US Secret Service, is a better strategy, the expert told Insider.

An Alabama school made headlines last month for implementing rapid-deploy safe rooms in some of its classrooms as a way to protect students from mass shootings. The ballistic wall units can be ready to use in just 10 seconds. They cost $60,000 each.

"It's that easy," a teacher doing a demonstration of the safe room said, as the local ABC affiliate filmed.

It's understandable why schools might want to take such precautions. There have been at least 130 mass shootings in the US since the start of 2023, and 12 shootings have occurred at grade schools. Most recently, on Monday, a shooter killed three adults and three children at The Covenant School, a private school in Nashville.

The problem is, experts say, there's little evidence that these kinds of solutions help.

"We're not going to invent our way out of it because we could put students in solitary confinement in a prison environment, and then there would be no danger. But that's not what anyone wants," said Amanda Klinger, a school safety expert from the Educator's School Safety Network, a nonprofit that provides safety training and resources for educators and school administrators.

Developing devices like rapid-deploy safe rooms, metal detectors, hideaway desks, and bulletproof backpacks to protect children from mass violence in schools — a process known as "hardening" — is a strategy many school systems throughout the United States are turning to at the urging of some Republican lawmakers reluctant to pass gun control measures.

"I understand why folks want to invent tools for educators to respond to school shootings because they're horrible and horrific," Klinger told Insider. "The concern is when you spend our time and our energy and our effort and our attention on a device or a software tool or a hardware tool that is so narrowly focused on only responding after shots have fired, I think we miss a lot of opportunity to work to prevent violence in our schools."

On top of that, not all school districts can afford hardware that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

"The concern that we have is when you spend money on that device or other devices that are also geared towards responding and they only can respond to an active shooter event, there are only so many dollars that our schools have to spend," Klinger told Insider.

It's also difficult to determine how successful these devices are at preventing violence in schools, she added. Studies on the efficacy of metal detectors, for example, have found little evidence that they work. A 2017 study found that metal detectors used in airports had fail rates as high as 95 percent.

"We can talk about what has been proven about the bulletproofness of this device or the potential utility of other devices, but it's really hard to measure what we prevent," Klinger told Insider.

A better solution, Klinger said, is to focus on and invest in behavioral threat assessment management, a tactic used by the US Secret Service that was also implemented statewide in Virginia schools and universities after the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, during which a student shot and killed 32 people. Other states have implemented similar programs — or at least recommend them — but many have not, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education.

"Threat assessment is an involved process. It is a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team that identifies assesses and manages individuals of concern," Klinger told Insider. "It involves the hard work of a lot of people looking at issues with nuance. Is this individual at risk for self-harm or dating violence or committing a mass shooting? And then providing supports and interventions before those things happen."

Klinger said behavioral threat assessment can work to prevent violence on a "mass shooting scale" as well as "on a person who is at risk for self-harm scale."

"It's a lot easier to provide skills and capabilities to every adult that works for a school district than it is to purchase locks or metal detectors," she added.

Read the original article on Insider