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, school building closures and digital learning impacted many students, staff, and caregivers. While it is best to remain vigilant, evidence suggests that schools that evaluate their security posture and implement safety prevention strategies can reopen and maintain a safe learning environment.
For school administrators who want to review or update their current security setup, this article highlights six effective school security measures to consider.
Top 6 Effective School Security Measures
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 depends on the school’s risk profile and the district’s risk tolerance.
While virtually everyone agrees that the safety and well-being of students are 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, panic buttons, surveillance cameras, and resource officers. While these elements are essential, private and public schools must evaluate their current security measures before implementing new ones.
2. Conduct a Physical Security Audit
To ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff should employ a range of safety and security procedures in schools.
Based on the data collected in the 2017–18 school year, 95% of public schools reported that they have controlled access to school buildings by locking or monitoring doors and loading docks 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 in private and public schools. Conducting a physical security and threat assessment is an effective way for elementary schools and community colleges to identify existing vulnerabilities and enhance their overall security.
3. Evaluate Communication Systems
A School PA System (Public Address System) plays an important role in a school’s security system. School PA systems are used for regular and emergency communications within a school.
In a large school, finding a specific student amidst the daily events and class changes can take many precious minutes. With monitored doors and organized communication systems, it would be easier for school staff and first responders to respond to emergencies.
4. Strengthen Partnerships with Public Safety Officials
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 “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 to create a safer environment.
In partnership with Law Enforcement, schools should evaluate school security procedures and threat assessment, from natural disasters and bomb threats to acts of targeted violence and school shootings.
5. Improve your School Cybersecurity Systems
Whether schools continue with remote learning or use a hybrid education model, schools will use some virtual learning system moving forward.
Based on education statistics. 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 in 2018.
The fact is that in the 21st century, data security is just as important 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 security staff with cybersecurity awareness training to ensure vigilance.
6. Ensure Staff Receive Proper Training
Emergency preparedness means having a system to prevent, prepare, respond, and recover from emergencies caused by natural disasters and man-made events such as active shooter. It requires continuous training and suitable security systems in place.
Whether in elementary schools, middle schools, or community colleges, school staff and public safety officials should be properly trained on tactical response, active shooter protocols, and other emergencies.
Teachers are everyday heroes but can not be asked to be great educators and security experts simultaneously. They need effective tools, support, and practical training. The training needs to target the school’s specific needs and be aligned with the district’s overall security plan.
What is School Security Measure?
School security measures are vital for ensuring the safety of students and staff in educational institutions. These measures include access control systems, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, silent alarms, panic buttons, intrusion detection systems, emergency notification systems, visitor management, and cybersecurity measures.
School security is a vast field that comprises all measures taken to defend against threats to people and property in educational environments. A 2019 report on school violence highlighted the types of incidents that schools face.
It is important to note that threats to the safety and security of staff, students, school systems, and property can arise from natural and 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!
Points To Consider
Use the ACEF Checklist and CDC Recommendations
A security and threat assessment is an effective tool for schools to evaluate their current security measures. 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 National Center and CDC provide 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 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.
Do a School Security Assessment
Security assessments allow schools to systematically review their security system equipment, current policies, procedures, and emergency and crisis guidelines before making significant changes. It 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. To accomplish this assessment, schools should:
Establish a safety and security team willing to commit their time.
Identify a trusted security expert or partner 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
Plenty of elements 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 security staff, students, and visitors can gain access.
Improving School Access Control System
A school access control system prevents unauthorized persons from entering while notifying system users of suspicious activity. Integrating school access control systems with sophisticated IP security cameras ensures every entry point to the school is recorded and the footage stored for later viewing.
Ensure Everyone Knows About School Safety Procedures
Each school has a plan with specified roles and responsibilities for handling various 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.
In recent years, most states have required that every school have written plan and 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. It requires ongoing security evaluations and collaboration between school security staff, parents, first responders, and local law enforcement.
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:
Involve district and community partners in the site assessment, including local law enforcement or other experts.
Conduct threat assessment annually or regularly.
Integrate the site assessment results into the school’s Emergency Operations Plan.
Conduct additional assessments at sites outside the school building, like sporting venues, school bus storage or staging areas, or common routes near the school.
How do School Intercom Systems Improve School Safety?
During emergencies, school staff need to contact students quickly. A school intercom system also facilitates outdoor and indoor emergency communication and broadcasting functions.
It also enables two-way voice communication between the school, the classroom, and the monitoring room, which makes a world of difference when every second counts.
It is easy 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.
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.
How do access control systems work in schools?
Access control systems regulate school building entry through key cards, PIN codes, or biometric scanning, ensuring only authorized individuals can enter.
This controlling access can be integrated into other systems like security cameras, fire alarms, etc.
These systems ensure that only authorized individuals can access designated areas, enhancing security and safety within the school environment.
How can schools ensure staff and students are prepared for emergencies?
Schools conduct regular security training and drills to educate staff and students on security protocols and emergency procedures during the school day.
By prioritizing safety and preparedness, schools can create a secure environment where everyone knows how to respond effectively in times of crisis.
Schools must adopt adequate security measures to ensure that students learn in a safe and secure environment.
Although each school has unique issues, school administrators can implement these six effective security measures to strengthen their security posture.
School safety will remain an essential 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 security challenges.