The National Center for Education Statistics has been keeping records of school shootings in the United States since the year 2000. For each of the past twenty years, incidents in which a gun enters illegally onto school property has risen at an alarming rate (note the graphic below).
Although this rise in school violence is alarming, it also must be noted that from a percentage standpoint of violent crimes and homicides, the numbers for school shootings are still very low (0.1% of all schools nationwide). In fact, the NCES goes on to say that school shootings make up less than 3% of all youth homicides in the nation.
And yet, as concerned parents and school leaders, what can we do to limit our risk and help prevent further catastrophes? Is there a "profile" of the typical school shooter that can be assembled and blacklisted? Are there greater security measures that can be instituted to guarantee the safety of minors and school personnel?
Over the past several years, research-based strategies have been developed such as criminal-profiling a school's student-base and alumni, target-hardening facilities to include metal detectors, locked doors, and security guards, and implementing a zero-tolerance policy in which any violent act such as breaking windows or bullying be met with severe institutional consequences to avoid future, more serious acts of violence.
Each of these endeavors, although noble on the surface, also present their own challenges such as producing higher levels of student anxiety and fear, the alienation of school personnel from students, and high expulsion rates for troubled children.
Attempting to predict future events also presents its own challenges. Taking a deep-dive into human psychology and statistical analysis will often stalemate up against the fundamental limitations of the process, and the myriad of firearm laws from state to state make developing a standardized approach and reactionary framework nearly impossible.
But there is hope.
On our campus at Bible Baptist Church recently, Pastor Loren Regier shared a challenge from Luke 13:1-9 on the subject of school violence. He highlighted three key principles from Luke 13, in which Christ was confronted with the question of how to respond to politically violent acts.
Pastor Regier noted:
Jesus was aware of the news of the day (vs. 1-2)
Jesus makes the issue personal, not political (vs. 5)
Jesus clarifies the urgency of the moment (vs. 6-9)
Not only was Jesus aware of the terrible news, but He also was prepared to respond in a way that would ultimately point each individual back to his need of redemption.
The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked...that will never be fully corrected (Neh. 9:26, Jer. 17:9, Micah 7:3, II Tim. 3:2-4). And yet, the Bible is clear in providing the full plan of eternal redemption:
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9)
Christ saves us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5)
Even the most undeserving have the ability to be redeemed (Matt. 19:25-26)
A simple declaration of faith that Christ is Lord is enough (Rom. 10:9-10)
That then begs the question: As a school, what safety measures are we instilling into the heart of each one of our students? Are we simply consumed with protecting their earthly bodies, or equally concerned with their spiritual soul? Do our students know for sure the pathway of their eternal destiny?
Our responses to those questions as school personnel are the first and most fundamental questions that must be answered.
Other than actively engaging our students in immediate spiritual conversations and discussions within the framework of Bible class, chapel, or an academic class built from a biblical worldview, we also use the acronym S.O.A.R. to daily encourage students to be growing in their faith and spiritual maturity with others.
S: Show self-control
O: Own a positive attitude
A: Act responsibly
R: Respect others
Each of these ideologies is grounded in biblical truth, and are characteristics of Jesus that we desire our students to emulate.
The next question, as it relates to protecting our campus from a case of school violence, is also of vital importance.
Over the past several years, we have made the financial and tireless commitment to do everything within our power to help prevent all unauthorized individuals from entering onto our campus unannounced. These strategic implementations include:
installing security cameras that cover every common area, classroom, and outdoor entrance of the facility
adding multiple access points to view live, security footage
ensuring that all exterior doors remain locked
admitting entrance to visitors only after they are viewed, spoken to, and identified
scheduling at least one armed staff member to be on-site during all normal operational hours.
implementing a staff-wide communication system that can be instantly accessed from any mobile device to report suspicious activity
equipping all classrooms with magnetic window coverings and door-jam hardware
regularly participating in lockdown/intruder drills to educate staff and students
And yet, the system is far from perfect.
As we operate a private school within the construct of a broken world, we are daily at risk to the violent sin nature of mankind that is desperately wicked.
Would you partner with us in daily praying for the safety and sustainability of our ministry? Would you, most importantly, pray that we as a staff urgently regard the mission of evangelism and spiritual growth with our students as we look to the future and broader scope of each life?
As the chart at the top of this page continues to rise from this year to the next, may we be ever confident in the Lord's sovereign protection of our ministry, while not neglecting our human responsibility to carefully steward what and who He has entrusted to us.
Written by Jon Knoedler, BBCS Administrator