School safety is a major priority for many educational institutions. Implementing security practices like video surveillance and door locks can help schools keep their pupils, students and staff safe from external threats.
However, new research by Arizona State University professor Sarah Lindstrom Johnson suggests some school security measures actually make students feel less safe. Here are six ways to improve school safety without making students feel unsafe.
Students should feel safe at school, and it is important to have preventive measures in place that ensure this. Metal detectors can help stop unauthorized individuals from entering the building by scanning their bodies for weapons or explosive devices, and they can be integrated with an entry management system so that guests can be vetted before being granted access.
It is also advisable to have security cameras in key locations throughout the school, such as the entrances, and that they are monitored in real-time to catch incidents of inappropriate behavior, bullying, or threats. This type of unified system also allows first responders to quickly and efficiently triage the situation and take action accordingly.
Additionally, it is helpful to have a school security system that allows for anonymous threat reporting by students, and the best ones will include a panic button or silent alarm directly connected to law enforcement, as well as an incident response team that can be dispatched quickly in case of a crisis. Schools that provide this to their community will see an uptick in the number of students who are willing to report incidents.
Lastly, schools should consider access control for supply closets, electrical cabinets, and air/heating/cooling units as these areas could be targets of attack or an opportunity for students to play pranks on their peers. Having these rooms be accessible only to those with an administrative ID, or through a key card access system is critical for keeping students safe. Choosing a device with notch filter discrimination is preferred, as this can help detect specific types of metals like iron and gold while ignoring other metals, such as bottle caps, that are common in most school supplies.
The most effective way to keep track of who enters and exits school grounds is by using security cameras. However, this method is a controversial one that can raise concerns among students and parents about privacy issues. It is important for schools to strike a balance between keeping an eye on every movement and making students feel like they are under constant surveillance.
Another school security measure that can be a useful alternative to video monitoring is access control systems with integrated security capabilities. These solutions combine key-cards with the ability to verify people on camera, allowing for faster decision making. Additionally, these systems often have good imaging performance in variable lighting conditions thanks to wide dynamic range technology.
For entry and egress points such as school entrances, classrooms, cafeterias, gyms, sports fields, parking lots and more, cameras are an essential tool for school safety. The best school security cameras are high-definition and have the capability to pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ). For outdoor environments, features such as license plate recognition and facial recognition help to enhance school safety by recognizing trusted license plates for parents picking up their children and alerting law enforcement and first responders in case of suspicious activity or a potential threat.
In addition, advanced school security cameras can be linked to an access control system, allowing operators to use the camera feed when managing an access event to support verification. This ensures that the person requesting entry is who they say they are and not an intruder using someone else’s access credentials fraudulently. This integration also allows for more advanced school security measures such as the use of facial recognition to allow or deny access in a matter of seconds.
School security measures must be tailored to a school’s specific needs. Too much security, or a heavy-handed footprint, can increase feelings of psychological insecurity for students, even if a threat never occurs. Here are some best practices to consider for controlling access to your school.
Establish a clear protocol for visitors to follow during arrivals and departures, such as requiring a visitor pass or badge to enter. Schools can police these protocols with technology tools such as door entry systems that allow administrators to log all students, teachers and staff who enter the building as well as visitors in a secure way (with cameras and intercoms). This is a better alternative to using paper sign-in sheets that are often illegible and easily circumvented. Using SaferWatch is also a good option specifically for students so that they feel safe and have a better response from the law enforcement if something bad happens.
Another school security measure that can help with visitor management is a secured gate, which can be equipped with an intercom and a camera so visitors can check in before entering the facility. This helps prevent unauthorized access to areas where visitors should not be, such as laboratories and IT stores.
Finally, schools with large grounds can also enhance their perimeters by installing fencing and security lighting. Adding a monitored CCTV system that incorporates sensors and PTZ cameras can also be useful for monitoring the school after hours.
For budget-conscious schools, a school security system that includes remote monitoring can be a cost-effective way to manage security. These systems send a notification to an offsite team whenever a camera is triggered, which means that a school can be more proactive about identifying and responding to threats before they become serious. This is especially beneficial for schools that cannot afford to hire a physical guard to patrol the campus after school and during holidays.
School security is more than stopping threats to life safety; it’s also about creating an environment where students and teachers can feel safe to learn and work. Unfortunately, in the wake of recent events, many schools are struggling to create a positive learning and working environment for students and staff.
One of the simplest ways to improve security at a school is by keeping the exterior well-lit. This not only provides a deterrent against unwanted intruders, but also makes them more identifiable in security videos should they become a problem.
Other school security measures include the use of visitor management systems, CCTV monitoring and the implementation of perimeter security. Additionally, the use of clear signage, limiting access via secure entry systems, managing data access, educating students and staff on emergency procedures and conducting risk assessments all contribute to a comprehensive school security approach.
It’s important for school administrators to understand how their security measures impact student perceptions of safety. Visibly conspicuous security features, such as metal detectors or barred windows, can increase students’ perceived sense of danger and may even alarm them. Thankfully, protective building materials are now available that blend into the background for improved security that works in conjunction with occupant-centered design.
For example, multifunctional, fire-rated security glazing resembles traditional window glass for school security that doesn’t compromise the open and inviting environment of educational facilities. It’s important for school security professionals to take this into account as they make recommendations on how best to safeguard their institutions. The more a school focuses on improving security, the less they have to worry about their safety. A good way to do this is by ensuring that basic security measures are implemented and then continuously looking for improvements.
School security should be designed to blend into the background so students can feel safe and confident. While systems that are easily observed may deter some threats, they can also increase alarm among students. Multifunctional, fire-rated security glazing is one solution that works with occupant-centered design to improve school safety without limiting visibility or hindering the flow of traffic.
Schools are often situated on substantial grounds with large perimeters to protect. A combination of fencing and security lighting can help to deter intruders and monitor activity around the building, particularly when coupled with PTZ cameras.
Another critical aspect of school security is ensuring that all doors are locked during class time. In addition to requiring all visitors to sign in or check in with reception, it is important for schools to have secure door locks that are tested to resist forced entry. Ideally, the lock should have an ANSI or BHMA grade 1 rating.
Most K-12 schools have taken steps to tighten security in recent years, including outfitting classroom doors with interior locks and drafting active shooter preparedness plans. But these protocols vary by type of school, geography and other factors.
The best school security measures are ones that make staff, pupils and visitors feel safe while still maintaining a free, open, creative and educational atmosphere. It is a delicate balance that requires careful planning to ensure the safety of all involved while still offering kids a great place to learn and ease parents’ anxieties.
Schools are a vital part of our society, and they should be a welcoming and safe place for all people to spend their days. With the right security measures in place, teachers, pupils and visitors can focus on what matters most – learning and building a better future.