Security in Schools: Measures to Ensure Security in Schools
Protecting the livelihood of children is the number one priority of any school. Due to a series of violent incidents, the media spotlight has been placed firmly on security in schools. Difficult questions are being asked about the necessity of measures like school security checkpoints and school safety guards. But what does the situation look like on the ground? Let’s examine current school security measures and whether they are sufficient.
Why is Security in Schools Important?
The nation’s children rely entirely on their schools to protect them physically and mentally. Threats are out there and becoming increasingly violent, as the spate of school shootings in recent years demonstrates. While preventive measures and adequate security in schools prevent bodily damage, it also reduces concerns among students and parents. At the same time, by providing a safe and secure learning environment, children can reach their potential in a nurturing, academic setting.
It would certainly not be a stretch to say that public school security safeguards the future of the U.S. In an increasingly dangerous world, principals and public school administrations need to seriously consider implementing a new and more diverse range of security measures.
What Does Security in Schools Look Like Today?
It’s easy to get carried away watching the news and hearing what the media says about the average public school’s security, but what does security in schools look like currently? The good news is that American schools are, overall, extremely secure. Most schools already have thorough school security measures in place to protect students. Unsurprisingly, there is a deep divide in security when comparing urban schools in poorer areas with suburban schools in more affluent areas. It’s also clear that schools that have previously not experienced an emergency are laxer regarding security.
School Security: Measures in Use
The most common practices among schools across the nation are locked or monitored doors and gates to prevent unauthorized access. Some schools have also implemented security cameras, metal detectors, and limited access to social media websites. School security statistics also show that some schools have hired armed security officers to patrol the grounds to protect students and faculty. Schools in urban areas are much more likely to have armed security present than those in rural areas. Finally, a number of schools have also implemented compulsory ID badges for students.
School Security: Statistics
An interesting statistic is how different schools at various levels on the academic pyramid approach public school security. For example, elementary schools are more likely to have control measures in place, such as locked doors, monitored gates, and security cameras. Here are some enlightening statistics demonstrating the differences in elementary school vs. high school security:
- 8% of elementary schools lock the doors of the building vs. 85.9% of high schools.
- 8% of elementary schools lock the gates of the grounds vs. 42.8% of high schools.
- 4% of elementary school children must wear ID badges vs. 19% of high schoolers.
On the other hand, high schools are more likely to have random dog-sniff searches for drugs, electronic monitoring systems, and anonymous threat reporting systems. If we examine the overall percentage of schools with various security measures in place, only locking the doors of the buildings see most schools do that at 80.6%.
All other security measures see less than half of schools across the nation implementing them. We can conclude that school security is lacking during a time when it should be the primary focus. At Community Action Security, we are committed to helping districts close the gaps in their security methods.
How Can School Security Be Improved?
While there are no security measures that can make any environment 100% safe, administrators must take steps now to limit the chances of a breach occurring down the line. Let’s examine some of the measures schools can take now.
1. Conduct a Security Assessment
Security too often becomes an afterthought. Simply locking doors and installing cameras is not enough to ensure safety within a school. Call in the professionals and conduct a thorough security assessment outside of school hours. An audit can uncover the gaps in your security and help you to rectify them. Security assessments are not a one-time thing. Perform a security assessment every semester to ensure you are briefed on the latest threats.
2. Pre-Emptive Security Responses
Violence among students represents a major challenge for any school. Begin by establishing a psychologically secure environment in the first place to prevent conflict and outbursts. It starts by supporting students and empathizing with their problems. Take student feedback seriously and elevate them into leadership positions. Begin building an environment of trust and inclusion. This also helps to detect the warning signs of psychological stress, allowing staff to act rather than react.
3. Control Access to the School
Limit control points in the school to one or two. Remove the ease of unauthorized entry and exit from the building. Every entry and exit point should be monitored by trained personnel. If we look at the armed guards in schools statistics, 43% of public schools now employ at least one. Although armed guards may not be appropriate for every scenario, a trained security officer could be an asset to any school. Even outside of school hours, entry and exit points must be monitored, including external gates.
4. Educate Children About Dangers
Security is a collaborative effort. Students are not prisoners and shouldn’t be treated as such. They play an active role in maintaining the safety of the faculty and their peers. Explain to students about current security measures in place, including what to do if there is an active shooter situation. Make sure security drills are in writing and practiced regularly.
5. Develop an On-Site Incident Response
One of the most crucial questions when it comes to school safety is: do faculty and students know what they need to do if there is an emergency on campus? To achieve a high level of security in schools, districts must have a designated incident response team. Whether confronting a fire, active shooter, or an unidentified person, they need to be trained in what to do. This is why hiring external security officers is so important. Officers from Community Action Security can take charge of a situation and provide protection until law enforcement arrives.
6. Implement Appropriate Security for Visitors
Visitors represent a risk. All visitors should be required to wear a lanyard to identify themselves at all times. Administrators must maintain a visitor log that can be referred to in times of need. Extending security measures to the parking areas and having a member of the school security team meet visitors outside the building can further enhance security. It’s surprising just how many schools fail to do this. For example, how many schools have metal detectors? Just 5.2% of schools. And only 1.4% of these schools require students to always walk through them daily. School principals must know how many visitors they have each day and where they are in the building during their visit.
7. Develop an Anonymous Reporting System
Part of establishing a collaborative security system involves making students a part of the security measures in place. Encourage students to come forward and report anything suspicious they might encounter. However, many students may not feel comfortable coming forward with any information due to fear of judgment. Establish an anonymous reporting system to improve your security and allow students to feel comfortable coming forward. Particularly in larger schools, it is challenging for a small faculty to watch and notice everything at once. Rely on your students to help you mitigate risks.
8. Work with Parents on Security
Stress is one of the biggest threats to a student’s education. Both students and parents should feel comfortable passing through the school gates. Never assume that parents are happy with current school security measures. Show you are serious about security by working with parents to acknowledge their fears and determine what the school can do to alleviate their concerns.
9. Adopt Two-Way Communication in the Classroom
It’s not uncommon for emergencies to spiral out of control before someone in a position of authority can implement the school’s emergency action plan. Maintain a policy of open communication between classrooms. All classrooms should be equipped with two-way communication consisting of a microphone and speaker. Connect it with the security office, which will then spread the news of the announcement over the PA system. Even in an active shooter situation, two-way communication could save the lives of hundreds of children.
10. Lock What Isn’t in Use
A simple policy to implement is the locking of classrooms when they are not in use. School hallways can be like mazes, and open, empty rooms make it easier for trespassers to evade security. Encourage teachers to keep doors locked when they leave the room and ensure the security team always has a spare set of keys.
Security in schools has become a more pressing issue in recent years. Although school districts and administrators have collaborated to enhance existing security measures, statistics show that they haven’t gone far enough. Illicit drug use, school violence, and the dreaded active shooter situation are all too common. To help you prepare for any threat, consult with Community Action Security. Learn more about what hiring a professional security officer entails and how we can increase security in your school now.