For years, criminals – active shooters, sex offenders, burglars and others – most often gained access to a K-12 campus the same way staff, students and parents do by walking through a door.
Then came Sandy Hook, a Connecticut elementary school that locked its front doors. But even that wasn’t enough to stop the December 2012 massacre of 26 students and teachers.
The national outrage following that attack brought together school officials, security integrators and consultants, equipment manufacturers, law enforcement. politicians and parents to define best practices for campus security. The goal in states across the country was similar; design a repeatable and affordable plan capable of working at virtually all school of any age, location or type of construction.
While others worked on mental health screenings, stricter discipline codes and faster law enforcement responses, it became the role of the security industry to find ways to harden campus entries.
No plan is foolproof. Current best practices constantly undergo refinement. But here’s a snapshot of where those best practices are today and what role a commercial integrator can play in enhancing campus security.
Study campus strengths and weaknesses.
Any K-12 campus security plan should begin with an all-risks assessment. An experienced integrator should examine the neighborhood; traffic patterns; how students travel between home and school; parking lots; landscaping; rooftops; windows; and, of course, all doors. Find out who uses which doors, when and for what purpose.
It’s important to note and gauge the effectiveness of security precautions already in place. District security personnel and local law enforcement can share vital insights. The more information the integrator gathers, the better the plan he/she can help prepare.
Keep the doors locked.
Door (and window) locks are the first barrier in any school building. But they are only effective when used at all times children are on campus. Ten years ago, a national survey found more than 75 percent of campuses reported keeping doors unlocked throughout the school day. That’s still the case, especially in some rural schools. That can’t happen any more.
Allow one open door 30 minutes before and after class sessions begin. During those times, have security personnel and/or a student resource officer (SRO) present. Once classes begin, all doors must be locked and remain locked. And don’t forget to place locks on interior doors. There has yet to be a reported active shooter fatality involving students behind a locked classroom door.
Vet all visitors.
Once the doors are locked for the day, no one – not parents, vendors or even teachers – should enter classroom buildings without being vetted. That requires all visitors and employees to use a single public entry. This is where the integrator needs to focus the plan.