American children returning to school in the next few days will find that over the Summer holidays many former places of learning have been transformed in to high-tech stockades.
In the wake of last December’s mass murder at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut – where a gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children – President Barack Obama’s proposed legislation to clamp down on sales of automatic weapons has failed to win congressional backing.
Sales of assault rifles similar to that used by the killer have increased and schools from Orlando, Florida to Santa Monica, California, have been targeted by lone gunmen who have added more victims to the bloody toll.
In recent months education authorities in the United States have signed a number of agreements with security companies to deploy armed guards around schools and introduce anti-terrorist technology at kindergartens and community colleges.
Last week Sandy Hook pupils returned to classes at a nearby school where police will be stationed to prevent the possibility of a copycat killer.
There are plans to tear down the bullet-pocked walls of the old school and rebuild as a $32 million model for pupil safety, with some of the cost shared by security firms. One proposal is to monitor school playing fields with satellite cameras.
Connecticut schools have been fitting yellow intruder alarms next to fire alarms in their dining halls. In Joliet, Illinois, teachers will wear alarms on pendants around their necks and secretaries have panic buttons connected to local police stations beneath their desks.
In Fort Worth, businessmen have offered to supply schools with child-sized bulletproof jackets and to pay unemployed people to be trained as guards.