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Good Question: Are Our Schools Any Safer?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut brought up, for many, memories of another mass school shooting – that of Columbine High School in Colorado.

In the wake of the Columbine massacre, teachers and police came up with new action plans to protect students. And as we marked the tenth anniversary of that shooting in 2009, we wondered: Are our schools any safer?

Below is the report from 2009

Wade Setter, the director of the Minnesota School Safety Center, says he believes schools today are safer because of a “heightened sense of awareness.”

“There’s a lot of things in place today that make them safer than ever before,” he said.

Columbine wasn’t the only shooting to prompt change. The Rocori High School shooting in Cold Spring, Minn., and the Red Lake massacre also provoked changes in policies and laws.

Many schools now have security cameras, police liaison officers and identification tags for teachers and staff. Minnesota law now also requires five lockdown drills a year. During some school shootings, that practice has saved lives.

Another change is quite simple: keeping doors locked.

“Ten years ago, you could walk into any door,” Setter said. “Today, almost all are locked.”

If Setter had to pick one thing that makes schools safer, it would be having plans for emergencies.

Over the past thirteen years, the percentage of Minnesota sixth graders who say they brought a gun or knife to school has dropped significantly.

The same is true with ninth graders, which has gone from 10 to 7 percent.

“Have we seen a decrease or increase in violence? It’s been pretty flat generally,” Setter said.

That may be because schools have always been quite safe. The number of incidents is consistently low.

“In many communities, the school is safer than the home,” Setter said.

Many schools took a zero-tolerance approach towards weapons after Columbine. If students had something that might even be considered a weapon, they’d be expelled.

Today, however, that policy is now largely seen as an overreaction. Schools are taking a more nuanced, individual approach.

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