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Rush to boost school safety sparks flurry of ideas and questions

Published on Dec 19, 2012 6:02 AM

(REUTERS) - They began calling on Friday morning, even before confirmation of the death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary. Principals, district administrators, school police chiefs all asked the same pleading questions: What can we do? How do we stop this? How can we keep our children safe? Mr Michael Dorn, phone to his ear until 2am, gave them all the same advice: Slow down.

Every horrific school shooting sets off a rush to bolster security, and Mr Dorn, a widely respected school safety consultant, says he has seen hundreds of millions of dollars wasted in the frenzy to upgrade.

Principals spend lavishly on emergency response software, not realizing how impractical it is to fumble with a log-in during a crisis. Districts buy pricey metal detectors, only to switch them off because they cannot afford to deploy staff to do pat-downs and search book bags.

"People are frightened. They're trying so hard," said Mr Dorn, a former schools police chief who runs the nonprofit consulting network Safe Havens International in Macon, Georgia. "But you want to build something that will last decades. Focus on making quality improvements rather than doing it quickly."

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