Schools need to tackle both internal and external threats. A school’s administration should always prioritise its students’ safety. This helps the students feel safe within the school’s premises. According to a study by the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, poor school security results in poor academic performance as well.
Ensuring a safe environment for students helps them focus on their studies as well as healthy extra-curricular activities. Students studying in secure environments show better personality traits as well. However, if school safety and security issues are overlooked, students are forced into an uncomfortable environment. This downgrades their academic and personal growth. Here are some security threats posed to schools that may need immediate attention.
1. Lack of proper emergency plans formulated by administrations
Many schools follow an Emergency Operation Plan (EOP). EOPs are documented guidelines that explain how an emergency should be dealt with. The guidelines give a detailed account on how teachers and other staff members should respond and recover from an emergency. State departments require school administrations to devise an EOP to ensure students’ welfare and curbing school security problems.
Although sample outlines have been provided by the relevant authorities, unfortunately many EOPs have several gaps. Even if an effective plan is formulated, its implementation is questionable. In fact, many schools are unaware of EOPs in totality. This triggers school security problems, leaving it vulnerable to crimes and natural disasters alike.
2. School architectures do not facilitate proper evacuation mechanisms
With new school buildings being constructed, it is critical to keep in mind school safety and security issues. Unfortunately, old school buildings lack the necessary architecture. The Wyoming School Facilities Department worked with security and design consultants to come up with architectural designs that would ensure school safety.
Most schools have multiple entrances that are rarely chaperoned. Purpose-built large campuses make surveillance a difficult task. Round the clock personnel are not always available for security rounds either. Large windows give an airy look to classrooms; however, they may pose a grave security threat.
3. Schools run on reaction mechanism rather than prevention
The recent Heritage Highschool shootings in Newport have left parents shocked and questioning security measures being taken by schools. As a chain event, tighter security measures and drills have been initiated in schools all over. This brings forth the question: why do we need a security breach to start taking precautions? School administrations need prevention measures rather than reactionary measures.
Installing metal detectors, surveillance cameras and scheduled parameter checks are all part of preventive measures that can reduce security threats and minimize school safety and security issues. In addition to installing security devices on campus, schools should take psychiatrists and counsellors on board as well. They will help in assessing and identifying individuals who may pose a threat to the students and staff.
4. Outdated security systems put students at risk
Outdated security systems and measures have proven to be ineffective and even controversial in some cases, for example bullet proof glass and barricades. While some schools have moved to updated security systems with features like background checks, other schools are chasing grants and funds to update their security.
Outdated security systems such as grainy cameras and manual locks make security breaches easier and put the lives of many at stake. Digital Floor Plans made by the Critical Response Group provide schools with digitized plans. These digitized plans will help reduce response time in the event of a security threat.
5. There are not enough security devices installed in schools
Budgetary cuts and lack of funds restrict schools from taking the security measures needed. This leaves schools with no choice but to stick with conventional security measures. Studies have also shown that deploying high security can impact students’ academic performance and mental health. Some also believe installation of cameras all around the school campus can impact a student’s communication skills, due to the idea of being watched the entire time.
These are just a few restraints that handicap school boards from installing an adequate amount of security devices in school. While for the time being, reducing security around the campus may seem like an option so that students do not feel trapped or anxious, it may not be the best choice in the longer run.
6. Parents tend to oppose amped-up security measures
Parents and guardians, while wanting to protect their children, tend to doubt excessive high security measures. Research conducted by Youth and Society revealed that students felt as if they were attending prisons rather than schools. Such conflicting views then leave school boards with no choice but to cut down on increased security measures.
Studies from a survey poll conducted by PDK International showed that parents are likely to favor mental health screening for students and staff members and stationing police officers on campus. This paradox in opinions leaves the school administration hanging in mid-air, offering inadequate security measures.
7. Lack of understanding of basic threats posed to schools
While all schools make sure their students are in a safe learning environment, small security breaches can be easily overlooked. Internal threats such as bullies often lead to larger problems like mass shootings. Irregular maintenance of doors, locks and alarms may seem like a small matter, but eventually, in the face of an emergency, they can pose a huge threat for school safety and security issues.
Schools and colleges need to conduct accurate assessments of the premises to identify and address any breaches. The assessment should also examine internal threats and assess the students, behaviours and overall culture adopted in the school. Since in most cases, alienation and bullying often lead to behavioural problems.
8. Teachers and staff members lack basic training and knowledge on safety issues and prevention
While EOPs give a detailed outline of what schools can do in an emergency, a guideline of any kind is of no use until the relevant implementers have sound knowledge about school safety and security issues. Schools can team up with local police or fire departments and hold training workshops with staff members and teaching faculty. This can help with damage control.
The staff can deal with security threats even if local emergency departments are not immediately available. Moreover, the training will help staff members to handle special students during an emergency. Students with pre-existing physical and mental conditions tend to need extra care and protection during a critical situation.
9. Lack of management within school administrations
Decisions backed by data are the focal point of good management. Unfortunately, school boards rarely make decisions backed by credible data. This leaves the school with ineffective and futile crisis management plans. On top of this, many school boards rarely interact with parents.
Most interactions take place during monthly meetings which are not enough for both stakeholders to share their concerns with each other. This communication gap in turn impacts the effectiveness of any crisis management plans mapped out by the school administration.
10. Schools are still using outdated technology and software
A central reporting mechanism can speed up crisis management. This can help school administrations in reaching out for help immediately. Anonymous tips and helplines will help students come forward with their complaints or if they feel that they are in danger. Case management software can help school administrations compile all their data regarding misconducts and misdemeanours in one place. Such a system can make the investigation process swift in the event of any crisis.