Minister promises tightened security measures across the board in wake of shooting

Education minister Mikuláš Bek

A ban on big luggage, security frames and key card entry systems: those are just some of the safety measures being debated at schools and universities around the country in response to the tragic shooting at the Prague Faculty of Arts.  

Prague Faculty of Arts | Photo: Kamila Schusterová,  Czech Radio

How did the gunman manage to smuggle a cache of long weapons into the faculty building and hide them there for the critical day when he walked in and unleashed a bloodbath? How come there was no security at the entrance and how come students inside the building were not alerted by sms messages that there was a gunman on a rampage in the faculty corridors? Those are questions that have been at the forefront of public interest since December’s tragic shooting.

The incident signaled an end to the liberal attitude to security in many schools and academic institutions around the country and their heads are now scrambling to effect measures that would minimize the risk of such incidents in the future.

Following a meeting with Czech rectors, police and security experts, Education Minister Mikuláš Bek said measures would be taken across the board in the coming weeks and months.

Education minister Mikuláš Bek and Charles University rector Milena Králíčková | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“The heads of schools and universities around the country are in contact with regional police directorates and have been taking immediate measures to improve security. As regards longer-term measures, it is now important for individual schools and institutions to assess the biggest security risks linked to their given premises and change their in-house rules. In doing that they will work with experts on soft-targets and learn from countries with experience in this type of crime.”

The minister said that a special working group involving the country’s leading experts on security and soft targets has been established and would supervise the necessary changes. He said that in the coming weeks a security manual for schools and universities would be developed, as a guide from which individual schools could put together their own set of security measures, depending on the lay-out of a building, the number of people on the premises and so on.

Minister Bek said that equal attention will be paid to the training of staff and students.

“We have already agreed to cooperate with the police and interior ministry on the training of the persons responsible for security at given schools and also on the training of staff and students in crisis-response.”

According to the minister, the security analyses and the necessary investments into security, including an early warning alert system, will be paid for by the Jan Amos Komenský Operational Programme  funded by the EU.

And last, but not least, given that the gunman who shot 14 people and injured 25 had a weapons license despite having been treated for mental problems, Minister Bek said that the Education Ministry would make itself heard in the Parliament debate on a new bill on access to weapons.