Next Monday will mark the ten-year anniversary of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's massacre that killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
The events unleashed by the two teenaged boys led to a burst in school security spending, but that era has come to an end, reports The Wall Street Journal, as spending from federal, state, and local sources has largely dried up or has been used for other things.
Federal funds have been cut by a third, or $145 million. States have slashed spending or allowed school districts to buy textbooks with money once reserved for security. Even the Colorado school district that includes Columbine canceled its annual violence prevention convention.
Despite the fears these cutbacks have sparked among educators and security consultants, the WSJ found that an alarming percentage of schools fail at even the most conventional and low-cost security measures.
In a recent survey of 445 educators conducted by the American Association of School Administrators, nearly 80% of respondents called school-safety funds "stretched" or "inadequate." Yet many also said they left quick, inexpensive fixes undone. More than 15% reported that their school entrances are neither locked nor monitored. A third confessed to propping open doors, giving intruders easy access. One in five didn't equip recess and field-trip monitors with walkie-talkies to report suspicious sightings or brewing conflicts.
And 29% either had no safety committee or indicated doubts about its effectiveness. Such committees are intended to bring together parents, teachers and local law enforcement at regular intervals.
The article goes on to describe several low-cost approaches to security that try to increase the amount of interaction between students and teachers as well as other adults. For example, take Tommie McCarter, the principal of poor Westwood High School in Memphis, Tennessee. By having teachers stand in the hallways in-between classes, McCarter has seen the number of fights drop from one every day to only four or five a year.
She credits teachers simply "being visible" as the best approach. "And that's no cost," she told WSJ.