Omaha School Shooting: Metal Detector or Mental Detector?

Posted by on January 13, 2011

Hours after the shooting of Millard South High School principal Curtis Case, and shooting death of assistant principal Vicki Kaspar, metal detectors in schools became the buzz of media and community talk.

Parents and communities understandably are grasping for a solution to a problem — school shootings — which has not been “fixed” for a over a decade following the Columbine High School attack in 1999.  People assume that while schools have taken many steps to prevent and prepare for a major incident of violence, they must go to metal detectors since these other steps have not “eliminated” the problem of school shootings.

As I pointed out in my interview for an Omaha World Herald follow-up story, there is no quick fix for school shootings:

It’s important, Trump said, that people not call for quick fixes after a school shooting.

“It would be very easy to throw up a metal detector, put more cameras, more officers in a school,” he said. “Create the facade of security, if you will, for the parents.”

Technology is important, he said, but what’s most effective is a comprehensive approach that includes a well-trained, highly alert staff; adults who know students well enough that they can recognize behavioral changes; and an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable reporting their concerns about other students.

One of the more common themes in many school shootings and other high-profile attacks, as well as from the data on suicide, is that there are many individuals with undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and/or untreated mental health issues who commit violence.

While metal detectors may be a tool in some settings, the greater need our society seems to have is for “mental detectors”:  Those who can better detect, and act upon, individuals displaying warning signs of their mental health distress.  Although there is no quick fix with this complex issue as well, it is often pushed aside because it is complex, with people lobbying for more oversimplified and quick-fix “solutions.”

What say you?

Ken Trump

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One thought on “Omaha School Shooting: Metal Detector or Mental Detector?

  1. jygco says:

    I think that if teachers were allowed to do what it is that they are supposed to be doing, which is teaching instead of getting all stressed out on all the “testing” and paperwork, they along with all other individuals within the schools could focus more on “mental detecting”. If need be, for the safety of students as well as school personnel I believe metal detectors in schools could be an added safety precaution.

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