School Security Measures & Guide For Students & Staff

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.

School building closures and digital learning impacted many students, staff, and caregivers during the pandemic. 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.

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Top 6 Effective School Security Measures

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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 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

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.

Based on the data collected in the 2017–18 school year, 95% of public schools reported controlling 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%).

Physical security measures can mitigate external risks, limiting the 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 vulnerabilities and enhance their overall security.

3. Evaluate Communication Systems

Intercom system two way school entrace.

A School PA System (Public Address System) is important to a school’s security system. It is 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

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 “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.

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

Students on laptops importance of cybersecurity.

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 controlled 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 simultaneously be great educators and security experts. They need effective tools, support, and practical training. The training needs to target the school’s specific needs and be aligned with the overall security plan of the school district. 

Emergency prepardness checklist.

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, security 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.

Type Of Incidents charts

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. The threat assessment is being used in many 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.

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Analyze your School Security Methods

School security 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 and procedures, and emergency and crisis guidelines before making significant changes. They are 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 for 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 written plan with specified roles and responsibilities for handling various emergencies. School safety and security require the participation of the entire community. Parents, students, and teachers must be aware of their current school safety procedures.

In recent years, most states have required that every school have written plans 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 elementary schools and districts with actionable recommendations to create a safe and supportive learning environment. Regarding strategies to consider, the agency recommends schools:

  1. District and community partners, including local law enforcement or other experts, should be involved in the site assessment. 
  2. Conduct threat assessment annually or regularly.
  3. Integrate the site assessment results into the school’s Emergency Operations Plan.
  4. Conduct additional assessments at sites outside the school buildings, 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, security staff need to contact students quickly. A school intercom system 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.

Benefits of Effective School Security Measures

  • Enhanced school safety for students, staff, and faculty
  • Deterrence of potential threats and criminal activity
  • Reduction of violence, bullying, and disruptive behavior
  • Protection of school property and assets
  • Improved emergency preparedness and response per school year
  • Promotion of a positive and conducive learning environment
  • Increased confidence and peace of mind among the school community
  • School psychologists give mental health services, counseling services, and social-emotional initiatives to students
  • Compliance with safety regulations and legal requirements
  • Strengthened relationships with parents, law enforcement, and the broader community

FAQs

How do access control systems work in private and public schools?

Access control systems regulate school building entry through key cards, PIN codes, biometric scanning, and visitor management, ensuring only authorized individuals can enter.

This system of controlling access can be integrated into other systems, such as security cameras, fire alarms, etc., in middle schools. 

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?

Most 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, private and public schools can create a secure environment where everyone knows how to respond effectively in times of crisis.

What is the most common security measure used by schools?

The most common security measure implemented by private and public schools involves using metal detectors regularly requiring students or visitors to pass through them as part of their daily routine. 

This practice aims to enhance safety by detecting concealed weapons or prohibited items that individuals may attempt to bring onto school premises. 

How can schools balance safety and security measures with maintaining a welcoming environment?

Schools strive to implement safety and security measures that promote safety while maintaining a positive and welcoming learning environment. 

This may involve adopting non-intrusive measures, fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity, and collaboratively engaging with the school community to address security concerns.

Conclusion

Schools must adopt adequate safety and security measures to ensure students learn safely and securely.

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.

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