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How it changed school security

The Columbine High School massacre was a watershed event that transformed campus security and student safety but more could still be done to prevent future tragedies, experts say.

world Updated: Apr 19, 2009 22:55 IST

The Columbine High School massacre was a watershed event that transformed campus security and student safety but more could still be done to prevent future tragedies, experts say.

The bloody events of April 20, 1999 led to a sweeping review of school safety across the United States, with millions of dollars spent on funding for cameras, metal detectors and emergency response plans.

But experts say some of the most effective programs put in place in the 10 years since Columbine have focused on preventative action and seek to identify students intent on violence before they strike.

A 2002 report by the US Secret Service and Department of Education found that in 81 per cent of violent incidents at schools dating back to 1974, someone other than the killers had prior knowledge or failed to report it.

Susan Payne, special agent in charge of school safety and homeland security in Colorado, is the executive director of Safe2tell, an anonymous tipline set up to provide students and adults a channel for reporting concerns.

Payne said the program had prevented some 28 attacks in four and a half years, including one incident where an arsenal of weapons was recovered.

“There is no accurate reliable profile of a school shooter but we do know there are some commonalities,” Payne said. Organisations such as Safe2tell offered training aimed at helping school staff identify troubled students.

“It's not just educators or counselors, but all those people who work with young people on a daily basis in the cafeteria, in the playground, the bus drivers,” Payne said.