To What Extent Are Schools Prepared for Crises? Life after Columbine and Sandy Hook
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Despite safety measures that have been put in place since the mass school shootings at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, school districts are still ill prepared for an active shooter crisis. In this qualitative, exploratory study, four Texas superintendents of differing district sizes were interviewed. Information from the interviews was triangulated using school district policy, financial records, and emergency operations plans to gain an understanding of the overarching question: To what extent are schools prepared to address intruders and active shooters through the four stages of crisis planning? Through the research conducted, the four areas of crisis planning were analyzed: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. While school districts are required to have an emergency operations plan, these plans are not monitored outside the school district. Thus, each district has different priorities, and the majority of the plans address neither the recovery phase nor the possibility of active shooters. Concerns raised through the interview process include the lack of inclusion of first responders in the planning process and multijurisdictional issues faced by many districts. A thorough review of policy reveals insignificant requirements by the state for keeping staff and students safe, and an analysis of financial records highlights the disadvantage experienced by smaller districts due to lack of equitable funding from the state. This inequity affords larger districts the option to be better equipped with safety and security measures, as well as hiring of security personnel. Safety in schools is of utmost importance—mass shootings are occurring across the country, and our schools must prepare for the real crisis of an active shooter. Upgrading security, revamping policy, and achieving equitable financing are essential elements to improve security and safety. Recommendations for future research target teachers as first responders, policy change, multijurisdictional ideas for handling emergency personnel, and the finances of rural school districts.
Monzingo, Betty Denise (2017). To What Extent Are Schools Prepared for Crises? Life after Columbine and Sandy Hook. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from