School Violence Prevention – Physical Security
This is indeed a tough idea to try and convey in just a few hundred words. There are literally, dozens, possibly hundreds, of books on securing an educational institution. And all of them have their points.
I am going to attempt to boil it down into these few words with the most practical, effective, & efficient (both financially and time wise) for you.
- The first point I want to make, and reiterate, is that parents need to be involved with security for the school. They don’t need to know everything, but if they are a concerned parent then let them ask the necessary questions. As with all good security, you don’t need to disclose everything.
Should you be concerned with the questions about your security plans and other security related items? Of course! But if they happen to be a security professional, then you can ask for and get their input from a security standpoint. Even is the district has a security manager, what would it hurt to get another view of your security plans?
- Don’t lie to the parents or the press. In the Phoenix area, I approached a district several years ago. T was told, extremely succinctly, that they had o issues. The next week a 14-year-old was arrested for filling a backpack with weapons to ‘solve a 4th hour problem’.
- All doors should be locked at all times that school is in session. With the allowance that ‘crash bars’ on the doors for emergency exit. AND NEVER allow them to be propped open by anyone for any reason.
- Ensure that the glass in the side lites of the doors is not wide enough for someone to break and then open the doors from inside. The only failure in security at the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.
- Access control – Everyone who enters the school needs to be required to go to the main office and get a visitors pass – even delivery drivers for the kitchen. This would also include visitors, deliveries, salesmen, and etc.
Another aspect of this is to attempt to funnel all the kids through one door when school is ready to start. This may not be very feasible with many older buildings, but then a teacher needs to be present at every entry/exit door before they are locked when the bell sounds.
And at that point then all doors need to be locked except the front door, which, ideally, will open into the main office or a highly visible space for a security officer or receptionist can see who wants in.
- CCTV systems should also be considered. And never go for the cheap ones that you can get at Costco or Sam’s Club. They are efficient; however they are also not effective in identifying intruders or vandals after hours. A high quality system is a must
- Lock up all hazardous materials. This may sound like elementary stuff, but you may be surprised at the explosive proof cabinets that are left unlocked and open
- Disaster Recovery Plan. This is an absolute must, and not just for a potential active shooter situation. You must also include if you want the kids to ‘run, hide, fight’ or evacuate the building.
- Get rid of those idiotic, ridiculous zero tolerance policies. They are a simple excuse to not do the job that the administration or district people should be doing. Too many times a kid bites his pop tart into a firearm and plays cops & robbers or army. Then they get expelled and ruin their academic career with a black mark that was stupid and foolish.
Are these all the measures you can take? Not by a long shot, but it’s a start. We can always install 10 foot brick walls with concertina wire, guard towers, double vehicle and pedestrian gates. Hand wand and pat down everyone entering the campus and install GPS in every students backpack or arm.
But will that make them safer from a murderer? Yes, as long as the murderer comes in from outside, but what of the butter knife in the cafeteria? And do we want our children trying to learn in an armed camp? Probably not so what’s the solution? Training, training for everyone from resource officers to teachers to parents to the lunch ladies. Good physical security measures that are not too intrusive and most importantly knowing our kids.
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security arena for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.
His latest book ‘one is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace violence is available for numerous e-book formats. It helps all organizations to reduce their risk and limit their liability of an incident. And it does this by breaking the rules in several ways, as well as following conventional wisdom in others.
He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page (One is too Many), Here you will see and read about other items related to WPV/SV as well as incidents you may not have heard or thought about.