Defense officials are reviewing an assessment, recently completed by DoD school officials, of the physical security of all their schools for military children.
“We are looking at working with the services on how we can we improve, and what resources we can employ to prevent the unthinkable,” said Thomas Brady, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, who has oversight over all 164 DoDEA schools in the U.S. and overseas. The results of the security assessment are in draft form in the hands of defense personnel officials, he said, and will be shared with military service officials.
But the issue of arming teachers or others in the schools hasn’t surfaced in the Defense Department, Brady said.
“There’s no discussion about arming teachers, or any discussion I’m aware of where anyone was interested in that,” he said.
The idea of arming and training school employees has been the subject of national debate following a rash of school shootings. Some school districts around the country have announced plans to do so.
There have been a number of reviews in the past of the physical security and safety policies of DoDEA schools.
“It’s one of the most important things we look at daily,” Brady said.
This latest review was ordered about three months ago by the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, he said.
Although 99 percent of DoDEA schools are located on gated military installations, Brady said, “that doesn’t give us a false sense of security. We have to, as school officials, work with the local installation and garrison to understand procedures and policies and make sure we’re working to exercise together, so that we are in sync from a physical reaction point of view.”
There are contract security guards at a few DoDEA schools — those located outside the gates of an installation, he said. But the vast majority of DoDEA schools are located on military bases and don’t have those security guards.
Brady said that as an educator, he’s concerned about the preventive aspects.
“What resources can we put in schools, and work with the local medical facility to have counselors, mental health, identification of those students in need early, before it goes to an absolutely horrible end?" he said. "So, my effort is what resources we can put in for preventive, but I’m not losing sight of the importance of working with our service partners, and physical security.”
Another priority is those schools on military installations that are not run by DoDEA but are operated by local school districts. Brady said DoDEA officials can share some best practices with those school districts about working with installation and other officials to synchronize their efforts.
“We have some best practices that we can help with the services and the majority of the installations in the U.S. whose schools are on post but are part of a public school district. All that’s moving forward, and it’s obviously a very, very important priority for us,” he said.
There must be a close partnership between the post, the schools and with local public school officials so that policies, procedures and processes are understood; that jurisdiction is clear; and reaction forces are in sync, he said.
Brady, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, was a former installation commander at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, with Fairfax County public schools located on base.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.