The USC Trojan Family Magazine recently published an article exploring the challenges in school violence prevention and the efforts at USC to address the growing threats to students and teachers. SCI Director Dr. Erroll Southers offered insight into school violence prevention and the many efforts SCI is engaging to move the nation toward a new understanding of school safety. The article reads in part:
The instinct of many is to embrace a bunker mentality, increasing security and taking other measures to “harden” schools. More students now report seeing security guards or police officers stationed on their campus, rising from 54 percent in 1999 to 70 percent in 2015, along with increased video surveillance and metal detectors, according to federal statistics.
That can be counterproductive and even harmful, says Professor Erroll Southers, director of USC’s Safe Communities Institute, which conducts research and education on violence prevention and public safety issues. Fortifying schools’ defenses doesn’t address violence that takes place just steps off campus. Nor does it ensure that people with mental illness receive the support they need.
Southers acknowledges that it can be challenging to inject restraint and objectivity into a complex problem like school safety, especially given the impassioned national debate on issues like gun control and arming teachers. Even the concept of “run, hide, fight” spawns heated discussions, with some experts arguing that the popular strategy taught to many kids as a way to stay safe during an active shooter incident can cause unnecessary fear and anxiety.
But after decades in law enforcement, academia and private consulting, he is confident that the right approach starts with determining the specific needs of a school and understanding how to make it a more supportive place.
“We need to get away from guards, guns and gates,” says Southers, professor of practice in national and homeland security at the USC Price School of Public Policy. “We have to build a community that’s safe.”
Read the full article.