Watch CBSN Live

School Safety A Challenge

Following a year that saw violent incidents at more than half a dozen schools in the U.S., school principals continue to wrestle with the problems of school safety.

CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports that the challenge is to protect students without turning schools into fortresses.

"There's concern around the country that if incidents such as happened last year in Pearl, Mississippi; Paducah, Kentucky; or Salem, Oregon; could happen in places like this, they could happen anywhere," said Bill Modzeleski, of the U.S. Department of Education.

Principals share that sentiment. "Every time any principal reads in the paper that something happened, it's like, 'Thank God, it wasn't my turn yet,'" said Phil Gainous, principal of Montgomery Blair High School in suburban Silver Spring, Maryland.

At Montgomery Blair, Maryland's newest and largest public school, officials are working to make their facility a model for school safety. Security guards roam the halls. Students, who must wear ID tags, are restricted from leaving school grounds.

Reaction has ranged from the discouraged to the relieved.

"I really feel trapped. It feels like you're in prison," said one Montgomery Blair student. But another teen observed, "The IDs..kind of made us feel safer."

Montgomery Blair officials now find themselves battling another problem: the perception among parents that all these safety measures mean the schools must be dangerous.

"Schools have been and continue to be safe places," said Modzeleski. "They're safer than most of the communities that kids live in and have to come from to go to public schools."

No one claims that more security is a guarantee of school safety, but it does make parents and staff feel more confident about their schools.

View CBS News In