This is a difficult subject to cover in just a few hundred words. There are literally, thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of books, not to mention articles & white papers, on securing an educational institution. And all of them have their good and bad points.
I will attempt to boil it down into these few words with the most practical, effective, & efficient (both financially and time wise) for you. Most school districts aren’t flush with money, which was promised by lottery sales but then…
- The first point is that parents need to be involved with security for the school. They don’t need to know everything of course, but if they are a concerned parent then let them ask the necessary questions. As with all good security, you don’t need to disclose everything. Should you be concerned with the questions about your security plans and other security related items? Of course, but if they are a concerned parent or happen to be a security professional, then you can ask for and get their input from a differing point of view. Even if the district has a security manager, what would it hurt to get a different perspective of the security plans?
- Don’t lie to the parents or the press. I approached a district. I was told, extremely succinctly, that they had “absolutely no security issues or students who would do something like that”. The next week a 14-year-old was arrested for filling a backpack with weapons to “solve a problem”.
- All doors should be locked at all times that school is in session. Crash bars on the doors for emergency exit is a federally mandated requirement for obvious reasons. NEVER allow them to be propped open by anyone for any reason. There are innumerable kinds of alarms and locking mechanisms for classroom doors that are inexpensive to install and use.
- Ensure that the windows in the doors aren’t wide enough for hands and unlock them. These sidelights are standard installation in nearly all new construction to make them friendly and inviting. The only failure in security at the Sandy Hook shooting was exactly this.
- Access control, everyone who enters the school needs to be required to get a visitor pass. Ideally, the entrance to the school can be redesigned so that everyone has to go through the main office. This procedure would even include delivery people for the kitchen, visitors, other deliveries, salesmen, and etc. Another aspect of this is to attempt to funnel all the kids through one door when school is ready to start. This may not be very feasible with many older buildings; a monitor needs to be present at every entry point.
- CCTV systems. Never go for a cheap system that is available at discount retailers. They are efficient; however, they are also not effective in identifying intruders after hours. A high-quality system is a must. The extra cost may help to catch a hooligan or spot an Active shooter before anyone gets hurt. Necessarily your CCVS system needs to be monitored and recorded 24/7/365.
- Lock up all hazardous materials, while this may sound elementary, you may be surprised at the explosive proof cabinets that are left unlocked, open, & with unsecured deadly chemicals, because the instructors re too trusting.
- Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) and/active shooter plans. This is an absolute must. You must also include if you want the kids to run, hide, fight or evacuate the building. The key with a DRP is that everyone in charge who works inside, to know the plan so they can assist the children.
- Get rid of those ridiculous zero tolerance policies because they are a simple excuse for people not to do their jobs when the issue crops up. Too many times a kid bites his pop tart into a firearm and plays cops & robbers or army. Then they get expelled and ruin their academic career with a black mark that was stupid and foolish for administration to enforce.
Are these all the measures you can take? Not very likely, but it’s a start. We can always install 10-foot brick walls with concertina wire, guard towers, double vehicle and pedestrian gates. Hand wand and pat down everyone entering the campus and install GPS in every student backpack or arm.
Will that make them safer from a murderer? Yes, as long as the murderer comes in from outside, but what of the butter knife in the cafeteria or the hammer in shop class? And do we want our children trying to learn in an armed camp? So, what’s the solution? Training, training, training. Training for everyone, literally who works there and good physical security measures that are not too intrusive. Next weeks post addresses the training.
Robert is the author of three books on preventing violence in both schools and businesses, all available on Amazon. His book–related website, with full information on his books: http://www.dldbooks.com/robertdsollars/
I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear
Permission to reprint and share? Of course, with full attribution.
Copyright 2019 Robert D. Sollars