Opinion: Push bars, metal detectors, security systems – do they truly improve school safety?

By Robert Hoffman, guest columnist

State Senator Robert Nichols reports that the 86th Legislative Session ended in success with the passing of several new laws. One noted achievement includes $100 million for school safety upgrades, including doors with push bars, metal detectors, and security systems.

Researchers have shown that crime has increased in schools the past 20 years, and districts need to address better safety issues. Growing school crime reflects the economic and social problems in modern society; namely, high unemployment, drug use, and broken families. Nevertheless, many school boards chose to invest in high technology security devices, hoping to prevent catastrophic violence.

Yet, when installing the most advanced security systems, schools transform from learning environments into closed, structured prisons. Moreover, students feel increasing anxiety and lingering doubt under these conditions. An unexplored area, researchers continue to investigate how this milieu affects student learning.

Notwithstanding the best technology, criminals can easily bypass systems used for enhanced security. Without much planning or effort, they would find a way to enter a school with a weapon, avoiding security systems and law enforcement. Furthermore, if students must pass through metal detectors when entering a school, then this procedure would take hours each morning, making students continuously tardy to class.

Senator Nichols, funding for better school security may put some residents at ease, but the cost for both future maintenance and upgrades now escalates as expenses for districts that invest in security technology. The Texas legislature will now have to address and fund these future issues. Attempting to resolve school safety problems has created many more future points in question that legislators and school boards will have to resolve.  

Children’s safety certainly ranks as a first priority, but with $100 million allocated for this program, should have the Texas legislature exercised more economic austerity and considered less expensive alternatives?

Push bars, metal detectors, security systems — do they truly improve school safety?

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