6 Effective School Security Measures

Police officer approaching school bus.

Across the country, school safety is a heated topic. Even before the pandemic, school leaders faced immense pressure from parents and community leaders demanding a safe environment where students can grow, learn and thrive.

During the pandemic, many students, staff, and caregivers were impacted by school building closures and digital learning. While it is best to remain vigilant, evidence suggests that schools that evaluate their security posture and implement safety prevention strategies are able to reopen and maintain a safe learning environment.

Let’s define “school security measures”

Before we get into the six effective school security measures let’s define what we mean by security measures. School security is a wide field that comprises all measures taken to defend against threats to people and property in education environments. A 2019 report on school violence highlighted the types of incidents that schools face.

Type Of Incidents charts

It is important to note that threats to the safety and security of staff, students, and property can arise from both natural as well as man-made hazards. Natural disasters and other emergencies can strike at any time, and when they do, everyone in the school should be ready to respond safely and effectively. Security measures are the steps taken to prevent or minimize these acts!

The Six Effective School Security Measures are:

For school administrators that want to review or update their current security setup, this article highlights six effective security measures to consider.

  1. Evaluate current school security measures.
  2. Conduct a physical security audit.
  3. Review school communication systems.
  4. Strengthen partnerships with public safety officials.
  5. Check your school’s cybersecurity posture.
  6. Ensure school staff receive proper training.
6 effective school security measures - infographic

1. Evaluate Current Security Measures for your School

A safe and secure environment is essential for effective teaching and learning. School security measures range from reducing the number of entrances to implementing an emergency communications system. It all really depends on the risk profile of the school and the risk tolerance of the district.

While virtually everyone agrees that the safety and well-being of students is the top priority, there are many opinions and approaches when it comes to identifying the best practices for school security and safety. One step that most school security professionals agree on is the importance of evaluating your current security measures.

School security is often associated with physical security equipment such as metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and resource officers. While these elements are important and we will discuss them in this article, schools need to evaluate their current security measures before implementing new ones.

Use the ACEF Checklist and CDC Recommendations

An effective tool for schools to evaluate their current security measures is by conducting a security assessment. This type of assessment is being used in an increasing number of institutions from K-12 to college campuses.

The Educational Facilities Vulnerability/Hazard Assessment Checklist from the ACEF is a good place for schools to evaluate their current security measures. Additionally, the CDC provides helpful information for schools that want to evaluate their security measures in light of the pandemic.

Analyze your School Security Methods

Security methods are the procedures and written guides that define how school security is actually implemented. Collecting and analyzing data can help school administrators discover underlying causes of violence, highlight areas for improvement, and determine the most effective prevention methods.

Tips to Improve School Security Methods

Due to the ongoing school security challenges, agencies such as SchoolSafety.gov were created by the federal government to provide schools and districts with actionable recommendations to create a safe and supportive learning environment. Regarding strategies to consider the agency recommends schools:

  1. Involve district and community partners in the site assessment, including local law enforcement or other experts. 
  2. Conduct site assessments annually or on a recurring basis.
  3. Integrate the results of a site assessment into the school’s Emergency Operations Plan.
  4. Conduct additional assessments at sites outside of the school building, like sporting venues, school bus storage or staging areas, or common routes near the school.

2. Conduct a Physical Security Audit.

Lady access control access to school.

To ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff should employ a range of safety and security procedures in schools. In the 2017–18 school year, 95 percent of public schools reported that they controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors during school hours. Other safety and security measures reported by public schools included

  • Use of security cameras to monitor the school (83 %)
  • Requiring faculty and staff to wear badges or picture IDs (70%)
  • Enforcement of a strict dress code (49%).

External risks can be mitigated by physical security measures, which can also limit the amount of damage caused if an incident occurs. Conducting a physical security assessment is an effective way for schools to identify existing vulnerabilities and enhance their overall security.

What is a School Security Assessment?

Security assessments allow schools to review their security system equipment, current policies, procedures, emergency and crisis guidelines in a systematic manner before making major changes. This is critical especially when it comes to safety and security procedures.

How to Conduct an Effective Security Assessment

Schools can reduce their risks by conducting a site assessment that evaluates current security practices and identifies options for preventing and protecting against safety incidents. In order to accomplish this assessment schools should:

  • Establish a safety and security team willing to commit their time.
  • Identify a trusted security expert or partners to guide them through the process.
  • Share their findings with district and community partners.
  • Integrate results into their Security Operations Plan.

Audit your School Access Control

There are plenty of elements that come together to make up a comprehensive school security plan. School Access control is critical when it comes to physical security and safety.

Access control means securing the perimeter of the school’s property, including each point of entry. Effective access control systems and policies ensure that only authorized staff, students, and visitors are able to gain access.

How to Improve Access Control at Your School

A school access control system prevents unauthorized persons from entering, while notifying system users of suspicious activity. Integrating school access control systems with a sophisticated IP surveillance camera system ensures every entry point to the school is recorded and the footage stored for later viewing. 

3. Evaluate Communication Systems.

Intercom system two way school entrace.

A School PA System (Public Address System) plays an important role in the security system of a school. School PA systems are used for regular and emergency communications within a school.

In a large school, finding a specific student amidst all of the daily events and class changes can take many precious minutes.

How do School Intercom Systems Improve School Safety?

During emergency situations school staff need to contact students quickly. Additionally, a school intercom system facilitates outdoor and indoor emergency communication and broadcasting functions.

It also enables two-way voice communication between the school and the classroom and the monitoring room, which makes a world of a difference when every second counts.

How to Design Your School Intercom System

It is not difficult to design a school intercom system. The first step is to figure out how many speakers your facility needs and to accomplish this here are a few pointers:

  • Identify the number of classrooms in your current facility.
  • consider a high-power speaker for every fifty or seventy-five feet of hallway.
  • determine how many large gathering areas will need a speaker.

Ensure Everyone Knows About School Safety Procedures

Each school has a plan with specified roles and responsibilities for handling various types of emergencies. School safety and security requires the participation of the entire community. Parents as well as students and teachers have to be aware of their current safety procedures.

At a minimum, most states require that schools have written safety procedures for emergency drills and evacuations, incident response plans to acts of violence, and general policies for conduct and student discipline.

Schools are continuously working to protect students and staff from violence but they need all the help they can get. This requires ongoing security evaluations and collaboration between schools and local law enforcement.

4. Strengthen Partnerships with Public Safety Officials

School Resource Officer giving high five to students.

In recent years, many states have enacted policies to increase the presence of law enforcement on campuses. Some schools use security guards as an alternative (or in addition) to school resource officers.

School resource officers (SROs) are known as “sworn law enforcement officers responsible for the safety and crime prevention in schools.” SROs are typically employed by a local police or sheriff’s agency and work closely with administrators in an effort to create a safer environment.

How do School Resource Officers Strengthen School Security?

While the role of SROs is still much debated, various studies have shown that most educators support their presence on school grounds. Ideally, SROs strengthen a school’s security posture by:

  • Serving as the first line of defense when violence occurs
  • Improving emergency response time
  • Obtaining critical information to avoid or defend against developing threats.

5. Improve your School Cybersecurity Systems

Regardless if schools continue with remote learning or use a hybrid education model, moving forward, schools will use some type of virtual learning system.

Since 2016, there have been 855 cyber incidents publicly disclosed by U.S. schools and districts, according to data from the K–12 Cybersecurity Resource Center. There were 348 in 2019 alone, nearly three times the number in 2018.

Students on laptops importance of cybersecurity.

The fact is that in the 21st century data security is just as imporant as physical security. Schools can improve their cybersecurity posture by:

  • Auditing the school’s data security to identify vulnerabilities and areas that need improvement.
  • Using cloud-based systems such as cloud-based video surveillance that allows remote access.
  • Providing staff with cybersecurity awareness training to ensure vigilance.

6. Ensure Staff Receive Proper Training.

Emergency preparedness means having a system in place to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies that are caused by natural disasters and man-made events such as an active shooter. This requires the combination of continuous training and the right security systems in place.

Emergency prepardness checklist.

Teachers are everyday heroes but they can not be asked to be great educators and security experts at the same time. They need effective tools, support, and practical training. The training needs to target the specific needs of the school and be aligned with the district’s overal security plan.


Moving forward, schools must adopt effective security measures to ensure that students learn in an environment that remains safe and secure.

Although each school has its own unique issues, school administrators can implement these six effective security measures to strengthen their school’s security posture:

  1. Evaluate current school security measures.
  2. Conduct a physical security audit.
  3. Evaluate school communication systems.
  4. Strengthen partnerships with public safety officials.
  5. Review cybersecurity posture.
  6. Ensure school staff receive proper training.

School safety will remain an important topic for years to come. While the pandemic made the situation even more complex, schools that invest in their security systems, training, and infrastructure will be better prepared for today’s school security challenges.

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