Meaningful and affordable school security improvements that can be implemented before next year
by Paul Kazlauskas
School security plays a crucial role in supporting the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of students. There is a lot of pressure on administrators to “get it right” by efficiently spending the budget and making the school as secure as it can be. There are also a multitude of security improvement options to consider. The process of securing the school building and its occupants can be overwhelming. What can a school do to improve its security before the next school year starts?
Assess your security needs
Knowing the full scope of your school’s unique security needs is the first step in planning for better school security. Administrators charged with making schools safer need to know the in’s and out’s of their school and be honest about potential weaknesses. Because security is so critical, assessment and planning should be done in partnership with experienced security professionals and/or local law enforcement officials. The security assessment should proceed like this:
- Identify potential hazards or threats to the school building
- Evaluate the current level of risk posed by the threats
- Consider available resources
- Decide how to prioritize which threats the school security plan will focus on
Build your school security community
School security is not a task to be worked on by just a few administrators. It takes a comprehensive team, each bringing their skillsets to the table to make the school more secure. Some ideas include:
- Work with local law enforcement. They are a great free resource to consult with when thinking about how to improve school security. An added bonus of working with local law enforcement is that it also gives the officers a chance to become intimately familiar with the layout of the school. That knowledge will come in handy when responding to an emergency when seconds could make the difference between life and death.
- Create an Emergency Management Team made up of the School Superintendent, the Town Manager, the Police Chief and the Fire Chief.
- Consider the presence of school resource officers, local police, and/or security guards. If within budget, it makes security sense to employ a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO).
Consider the importance of identification
School visitor management is essential. The concept behind utilizing a visitor management system is the desire to keep students, staff, visitors, and the school itself safe from harm. Schools should know who is entering and exiting their facility to protect from liability if an incident occurs. Some procedures that schools should consider include:
- All visitors should have to enter the school through a single point of entry and scan their IDs in a system supervised by trained school staff members. There should also be communication on what is expected from visitors while in the building.
- Require that visitors wear visitor badges while on the school grounds. All staff should be trained to report strangers not wearing a visitor badge.
- All staff and students should wear school ID badges that include important safety information on the back.
Communication with the public
School security doesn’t end once you’ve assessed your risks, built your school security community, and considered the role of identification. Many of the following ideas involve communication:
- School emergency operations plans (includes preparedness procedures such as lockdowns, evacuations, parent-student reunification procedures, etc.) should be shared with parents and the media.
- School staff should hold a mandatory safety meeting to discuss all emergency response procedures the week before the school year starts.
- All drill and emergency response information must be given to all substitute teachers as well.
- Create a school security policy sheet that will be distributed to parents during the summer to reinforce existing policies and communicate new procedures.
- Within the first two weeks of the school year, schools should practice a lockdown drill (with SRO participation, if available). The results of the practice should be communicated to parents, which will also include how parents can reinforce the school security message at home.
What other meaningful ways can schools improve their security by the start of next school year? Please join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
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Posted on 7/16/2019