Schools Vulnerable to Terror
Mon Oct 7, 1:31 AM ET
By GREG TOPPO, AP Education Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - If
terrorists ever strike Allen High School in suburban
Dallas, school police officer Carl Osburn says
authorities will be ready.
The school has a crisis plan, digital cameras in the
parking lots and staff trained to respond to gunmen,
anthrax and other threats.
"We've covered the bases on pretty much
anything," Osburn said.
Police at many other schools are not so confident.
A survey released Monday by the National Association
of School Resource Officers finds that 95 percent of
respondents described their schools as vulnerable to
Most cited security gaps, with too little training
and support or inadequate crisis plans that, in many
cases, simply have not been tested.
Officers also said the money crunch facing many
schools means they have received even less training
in preparedness since last year's terror attacks on
the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"The most critical lesson learned from 9-11 is
that training and preparedness saves lives,"
said Curt Lavarello, the group's executive director.
"Our federal and state governments must partner
more closely with local school districts and their
school police officers in order to have truly
comprehensive homeland security planning."
Federal officials said Education Secretary Rod Paige
is doing more than ever to help schools prevent and
respond to violence of all kinds, including
"Certainly the secretary has made it a point,
ever since 9-11, to reiterate how concerned he is
about school safety," said Eric Andell, a
senior adviser to Paige. That includes a
"threat assessment guide" prepared with
the Secret Service and distributed to schools last
Andell said the department has been giving schools
"technical information and good, solid
Bill Modzeleski, director of the Office of Safe and
Drug-Free Schools, said school shootings in recent
years have led schools to adopt policies, such as
limiting access to buildings, that would be
effective in deterring an attack.
While more can always be done, Modzeleski said,
"I think that school districts are moving
The written survey of 658 officers, conducted at the
school officers' annual convention in July, found
_83 percent said getting into their schools was very
easy or somewhat easy.
_55 percent said their schools' crisis plans were
_52 percent said the plans have never been tested.
_55 percent said their schools have no mail-handling
procedures for dealing with mail suspected of
containing anthrax or other deadly substances or
with other suspicious packages.
_74 percent said their schools do not educate
parents or communicate effectively on school safety,
security or crisis planning.
Jim Kelly, chief of school police in Palm Beach
County, Fla., said school officials and police in
his area cooperate on safety issues, which he called
"We take it as a matter of fact: You're
partners and you work together," he said.
"That's not the case all over the country.
You've got a lot of turf battles."
He agreed with Modzeleski: knowing how to react to a
school shooting, he said, essentially prepares
schools for terrorism.
"A shooting in a school is a local terrorist
act," he said.
Osburn, whose 2,700-student school is 20 miles north
of Dallas, said the nine officers are trained to
deal with "single shooters, multiple shooters,
hostage situations or whatever it is. We have to do
the training for everything."
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