By Rob Morse
The topic of school security came up at a faculty meeting at Oakland University in Michigan. Someone said they should fight back against an attacker on campus. That sounded like a good idea. One Pennsylvania school gave each classroom a bucket of rocks with which to fight off an intruder. The Oakland faculty passed a proposal to issue hockey pucks for school security. The local police chief might have planted the idea. A common classroom demonstration uses tennis balls against an attacker who is armed with an airsoft gun.
I’ll give the professors an A+ grade for creativity. Unfortunately, anyone with practical experience would have serious doubts about the real-world effectiveness of hockey pucks against an attacker armed with a firearm. Too often, academicians love their fantasy model of the world more than facts. I doubt the school administration will ever test the effectiveness of their hockey puck “security”.
No one who studies institutional security would propose handing out hockey pucks to defend a politician , a celebrity, or a business executive. Someone with an ounce of integrity would at least ask to test this hockey puck proposal by taking video of a simulated attack using airsoft guns and tennis balls. Failure is only a matter of life and death.
I am a shooter. I also study school security, so I will predict the results of that simulated test. An amateure sportsman could repeatedly shoot anyone who isn’t hiding in the “hard corners” of the classroom. The “hard corners” are the corners that can’t be seen until you’ve entered through the doorway. I teach my self-defense students that a gun is a distance tool. In this case, the attacker never has to enter the classroom to kill unopposed.
I give the professors a failing grade, an F, for actual performance. That isn’t the answer they wanted and it isn’t fun to tell someone they failed. This issue is too serious for false evaluations, for a social “pass”.
Real solutions are hard. We spend between a quarter to a third of the cost of school or municipal buildings on meeting fire and other safety code requirements. Those requirements are effective. It has been almost six decades since a student was killed in a school building fire. In contrast, the attack at Columbine High School was 19 years ago. We’ve yet to incorporate physical security requirements into our building codes for schools, churches and municipal buildings.
The hockey puck proposal has done all it needed to do despite its failure in the real world. The people who proposed and implemented the hockey puck defense never said it would save lives. The proposal was intended to end the debate over campus safety. The hockey puck defense distracts us from facing the deadly serious issues of security on a university campus. Unarmed Security is security theater.
Unarmed security is, frankley, a contradiction in terms, but hockey pucks did what they were supposed to do. The security-theater kept the voters amused and distracted.. so far. Who will be held liable for the lives this charade might cost? Given that it is a state school, the state’s attorney will say the security failure was unimaginable and that that the state is immune from prosecution or lawsuit.
That is negligent. Stop playing political games with our children’s lives.