The Trump administration’s Commission on School Safety unveiled recommendations at the White House Tuesday, calling for schools to consider arming staff and greater physical barriers on school grounds. The commission was created in the aftermath of the deadly massacre in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. Now more schools are taking precautions that come at a big cost.
CBS News was in Columbiana, Ohio, as teachers trained to take down an armed intruder with pepper spray. The test canisters they used are called Threat Extinguishers and cost $1,500 a can. When used, they send an alert to law enforcement.
Superintendent Donald Mook ordered 12 for his district.
“I don’t care where you go, parents are concerned about school safety right now,” he said. “They’re telling us, ‘Make our kids safe, do whatever you have to do to do it.'”
As tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland have become more common, the pressure has grown on school administrators to improve security. That has fueled a school-safety industry valued at nearly $3 billion, up 36 percent from just five years ago.
This year, the Columbiana Exempted Village School District hired a school resource officer at a cost of $45,000 a year. It’s also spending $2,600 on panic buttons for teachers to wear, and $18,000 on the Threat Extinguishers. Mook said it’s a “balancing act” to pay for the safety measures.
“Anytime you take from one pot, you’re pulling from another. We can add a teacher pretty easily for the cost of a resource officer right now,” he said.
Schools are investing in dozens of products that advertise security. In Oklahoma, one school district spent $260,000 for in-class bulletproof shelters. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore spent nearly $60,000 on bulletproof whiteboards, and a school district in New Jersey spent more than $400,000 on shatter-resistant film for glass.
The company that makes the film also sent an ad to Mook in Columbiana. He said he gets solicited daily.
“They’re going to strike while the iron’s hot,” he said.
Security consultant Gary Sigrist worked as a teacher and police officer for more than two decades. He has doubts about these products.
“If you’re selling a product that you say, ‘This will keep your school safe,’ then you already know it’s false. There’s no 100 percent safe solution,” Sigrist said.
In addition, he said there’s no federal oversight deeming these products safe.
“In some cases, we may be selling a false sense of security to our staff or students or parents. In some we’re going to be spending money on products that have never been proven,” Sigrist said.
Recognizing this issue, President Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety recommended creating a clearinghouse that would assess safety options flooding the market. For now, oversight remains up to local districts, and superintendents like Mook say they make the best decisions they can.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to do what we believe is in the best interest of keeping kids, staff and families safe in our district,” he said.
-Adriana Diaz reporting for CBS News
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