School Security: Frequently Asked Questions

Modern security measures have always been a subject of debate. Especially with security cameras which are practically everywhere, people have a growing concern about the invasion of their privacy. The adoption of these security measures has significantly increased, and schools aren’t falling behind in that area. 

Many schools are now equipped with security measures like surveillance systems, card scanners, etc., and there have been a lot of questions regarding their utilization. Some of the most frequently asked questions are as follows:

How long do school security cameras keep footage?

School security cameras typically store recorded footage for about 30-90 days. The time varies with the amount of storage space available for the security system to save the footage. It also depends on the type of storage used. If there is no more storage space accessible, the system will overwrite the old recorded videos to make room for the newer ones.

school security

Can schools put cameras in classrooms?

Schools can legally install surveillance systems in and around the school premises to ensure the safety of their staff and students. Hallways, break rooms, and even classrooms can be equipped with security cameras. Students spend the most time in their classrooms compared to any other part of the school, so extending security surveillance to classrooms is a significant safety measure for tackling any emergencies.

What is the cost of installing a security system in schools?

Security systems can be as simple as a bunch of monitored security cameras around the school premises. They can also be elaborate and complex, consisting of metal detectors, buzzer systems, card scanners, and emergency alarms. The cost of the security system depends on the number of security measures used and the quality required from these measures. 

According to the Connecticut General Assembly, these are the associated costs with each of the security measures mentioned above:

  • Security Cameras: Low-end security cameras can cost from $500 to $1,000. These cameras are customary in smaller school systems where video resolution is not a matter of concern. High-resolution cameras can cost as much as $8,000. The total cost of the surveillance system depends on the number and the quality of cameras used. Modern surveillance systems can cost as much as $400,000 for multiple cameras.
  • Metal detectors: The cost of metal detectors varies with the type of metal detectors used. Hand-held wand-type detectors are cheaper compared to portal-type detectors, averaging from $200 to $400. Portal-type detectors cost around $35,000.
  • Card Scanners: For smaller schools, the cost of this security system is around $30,000. Large schools leaning towards modern and multiple card scanners could see expenses around $20,000.

Buzzer Systems: A single buzzer system, or remote access system, can be installed at entry points of the school for approximately $10,000.

school security

Do schools check security footage on weekends?

Yes. Security cameras installed in schools record footage 24/7. It’s necessary to have these cameras always on, so they can provide videos for playback after an unfortunate incident has occurred within the boundaries of the school. Most school surveillance systems are recording all the time, even during weekends and summer/winter holidays.

What do school cameras look like?

Cameras commonly used in school security systems are mainly of three types:

Bullet cameras

Appropriately named due to their form factor, bullet cameras have a longer casing and use larger lenses. These cameras are primarily used in outdoor areas as they provide excellent coverage over greater distances.

school security frequently asked questions

Dome cameras

Dome cameras have a circular shape and are easily recognizable due to their structure. These cameras have a semi-circular structure mounted on a metal base to protect them from any tampering. This type of camera is suitable for both indoor and outdoor usage.

school security frequently asked questions

PTZ cameras

Pan-tilt-zoom cameras are capable of tilting in all four directions and zooming in or out of a scene. They’re usually used to monitor large areas that require 180- or 360-degree surveillance and are operated by security guards who can maneuver them according to the circumstances.

school security frequently asked questions

Do school cameras record audio?

No. Most security cameras lack audio recording capabilities. However, they can be used in tandem with external systems for recording audio, but here’s the catch: it is illegal in the US. According to the ECPA, also known as the Wiretap Act, it is a federal crime to record conversations without court approval or consent of the parties involved. The laws in other areas might allow audio recording as long as proper signage is displayed, so make sure to check with your local authorities first.

Do school cameras work?

Schools are increasingly employing security cameras as a safety measure. According to a study conducted by Statista in 2019, 86% of the schools in the US have security cameras installed on their premises. Surveillance cameras can help reduce bullying, acts of vandalism, theft, violence, and sexual crimes. The increasing adoption of this safety measure in schools is a testament to its effectiveness.

How much do schools spend on security?

With the ever-evolving technology, safety systems can be quite costly to install. In the United States of America, school security is estimated to be a $3 billion-plus industry. As per FEE Stories, US schools spend upwards of $2.7 billion on security and safety equipment like cameras and access control systems.

Is the installation of cameras in locker rooms legal?

No, it’s not. With the installation of cameras, the argument of invading people’s privacy always comes hand-in-hand. Installing cameras in classrooms, hallways, and parking lots is legal and is mostly encouraged. However, setting up security cameras in rooms where personal privacy would be affected, such as locker rooms and toilets, is undoubtedly illegal. If you see any cameras in these places, report to the local authorities immediately.

Who can access CCTV footage from school cameras?

Generally, security footage is accessible to security guards and other related personnel only. A specialized team is responsible for monitoring the streams from the cameras. Under some circumstances, other staff members can be granted access to the live stream through monitoring software.

Are school buses furnished with cameras?

Yes. School buses have cameras installed in them to monitor any acts of bullying or violence in the bus. This measure also helps monitor the arrival and departure of students from the school grounds and deters any unauthorized boarding on the buses.

Where are surveillance cameras installed in schools?

Monitoring cameras can be installed anywhere as long as they don’t invade the privacy of staff members or students. For the security system to offer maximum efficacy, these cameras are usually installed in:

  • School parking lots
  • Classrooms
  • Hallways
  • Cafetaria
  • Gymnasium
  • School buses
school security

Are there grant funds available for installing security systems in schools?

Yes, there are grant funds offered to schools for improving their security measures. Modern security systems can be complex and expensive, so the US Government offers the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) to facilitate schools in enhancing their security profiles. The SVPP is offered under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program by the United States Department of Justice. Funds from this grant can be utilized for:

  • Educating staff members and law enforcement officers on school violence prevention measures
  • Improving security measures in the school premises and surrounding areas
  • Enhancing communication between schools and the local authorities

The funds from this grant can be availed to cover 75% of the costs for any of these measures. According to the Security Magazine, the DOJ awarded $85.3 million in 2019 for improving school security. Grants such as the SVPP can help schools set up an effective security system.

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