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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Beslan School Massacre: Potential Preventative Measures in Retrospective

Beslan School Massacre: Potential Preventative Measures in Retrospective

The attack on School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia is a worst case scenario in school violence. The school, and the particular day on which it was attacked, was targeted as a terror tactic. Due to the commonality of suicide devices (bomb vests, and dead-man switches) amongst the terrorists, it is likely that the terrorist intent was to cause as much damage – and thus terror – as possible before dying themselves. This is what the terrorists told their hostages, “'If they come at us with tanks, we will fight back until we run out of ammunition. But then we will take your lives as well as our own.'”(Walsh & Beaumont, 2004, para. 50). This is a type of attack that is very difficult to stop once the attack has begun. The optimal method of preventing such attacks will be discussed shortly.
It does not appear that there was a policy at the school for such events. In fact, Dunlop discusses the situation in which authorities were aware of a likely terrorist attack in the area, but decided not to protect any of the schools (2005, pp.5-6). This lack of planning continued up to the attack itself, when all authorities could do was react. “As local police rushed towards the red brick building, grabbing whatever escapees they could, the first exchanges of gunfire began” (Walsh & Beaumont, 2004, para. 11).
At no point did the government response seem to be effective. The details of interagency coordination and communications remain unknown. Dunlop suggests that “The chain of command...remained muddled” (2005, p. 29). Investigative reviews of the government response give conflicted reports of command and planning issues. “The Kesayev Report asserts that the storming of the school was initiated following a command by federal forces” while the Torshin Report argues “that President Vladimir Putin initially gave instructions to Russian security chiefs, but fails to mention his role further”, also claims that no plan to storm the school was ever prepared by law-enforcement agencies”, and that the government attack on the terrorists but was “a spontaneous attack initiated by armed citizens outside the school who were then supported by special forces troops” (“Russia: Beslan Reports Compared”, 2007, para 24-27). Indeed, the official investigation was not transparent to the public at all. “At a press conference announcing the commission, Mironov stressed that it will not conduct a public investigation” (Coalson, 2004, para. 7).
There are three recommendations to make in the interests of keeping our schools safer. The first is to identify and eliminate terrorist organizations before they conduct operations against soft targets. “The literature on targeted killings suggests that their use diminishes the coercive and operational capability of violent, non-state groups in a number of ways”(Wilner, 2010, p. 312). The second is the standardization of security plans throughout our school systems. “Many schools do not have a formal, written security plan, and even for those that do, they are often either inadequate or not properly exercised” (Hutchinson. 2013, p.11). The final recommendation is the placing of armed guards in schools. The guards would not be able to prevent an attack on the scale of Breslan, but they would be able to counter smaller attacks, and in the act of defending against larger scale attacks provide opportunities for students and educators to escape the situation. “A properly trained armed school officer, such as a school resource officer, has proven to be an important layer of security for prevention and response in the case of an active threat on a school campus” (Hutchinson. 2013, p.11).

Coalson, R. (2004, September 21). Analysis: Putin's 'Managed' Investigation Into Beslan. Radio Free Europe: Radio Liberty. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1054959.html
Dunlop, J. (2005). Beslan: Russia’s 9/11? The Jamestown Foundation.
Hutchinson, A. (2013). Report of the National School Shield Task Force. National School Shield Task Force. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from http://www.nraschoolshield.com/NSS_Final_FULL.pdf
Russia: Beslan reports compared. (2007, January 3). Radio Free Europe: Radio Liberty. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1073791.html
Walsh, N. & Beaumont, P. (2004, September 4). When hell came calling at Beslan's School No 1. The Guardian. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/05/russia.chechnya
Wilner, A. S. (2010). Targeted killings in Afghanistan: Measuring coercion and deterrence in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 33(4), 307–329. doi:10.1080/10576100903582543

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