7 School Safety Tips
School safety is a top priority for educators, administrators, and parents. In recent years, school districts have been looking for ways to make their schools safer while also making the most of their budget. This post will explore the crucial components of school physical security, including access control, lockdown systems, and more. In this article, we explore seven safety tips for schools, focusing on how to improve safety across a school district while staying within budget.
What is School Physical Security?
During the 2019 to 2020 school year, 77% of public schools noted at least one crime had taken place. The 2020-2021 school year had 93 school shootings, a record high since 2000-2001. School safety is top of mind for staff, students, and teachers.
School physical security refers to the measures taken to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors in a school. Physical security measures can include access control systems, video surveillance, lockdown systems, door locks, mobile solutions, and visitor management.
Thus, there are numerous ways for a school district to involve itself in helping keep its students and staff safe.
How Do Schools Keep Students Safe?
Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for their students and staff. School security has gained a lot of attention in recent years with unprecedented school shootings and dangerous activity. Schools can increase campus security using a combination of the following security components.
Access control systems allow schools to control who enters the building and when. These systems can include key cards, biometric readers, and PIN codes. By limiting access to the building, schools can prevent unauthorized individuals from entering and potentially causing harm. Access control systems can also be used to track who enters and exits the building, which can be useful for monitoring and reporting purposes.
One important consideration when implementing access control systems is integration with existing systems. For example, Active Directory integration can simplify the process of typing in information and automatically remove a teacher's card if they leave. This can help ensure that access control systems are up-to-date and properly integrated into the school's security plan.
It's also important to ensure that access control systems are properly maintained and regularly tested. This can help ensure that the systems are functioning properly and that there are no vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized individuals.
Video surveillance is another important component of school physical security. Live cameras can be installed at key entry points to monitor who enters and exits the building. Video surveillance can also be used to monitor the school grounds for any suspicious activity.
Video surveillance can be both proactive and reactive. Proactive surveillance can help prevent incidents before they occur by deterring potential perpetrators. Reactive surveillance can help identify suspects after an incident has occurred, which can be useful for investigations and legal proceedings.
One important consideration when implementing video surveillance systems is privacy concerns. Schools must balance the need for surveillance with the right to privacy. Video surveillance should be used in public areas only, such as hallways and entryways. Private areas, such as bathrooms and changing rooms, should not be under surveillance.
Another important consideration is the cost of video surveillance systems. While video surveillance can be an effective tool for improving school safety, the cost of implementing and maintaining these systems can be high. Schools should carefully consider their budget when deciding which systems to implement.
Lockdown systems allow schools to secure the building in the event of an emergency quickly, and can include the use of alarms, intercoms, and emergency lighting. Lockdown systems should be implemented in a way that ensures the safety of everyone in the building. This may involve configuring the type of lockdown that occurs based on the specific situation. For example, a lockdown may be implemented on a geographic basis, where only certain areas of the school are locked down.
Note that lockdown procedures should be effectively communicated to all school personnel and students, with regular drills conducted to ensure that everyone is prepared and aware of what to do in case of an emergency. Mass notification is another important component. This can be done through an on-premise solution that broadcasts voice messaging through an intercom system, or through a messaging application that alerts people via email or text messaging.
One important consideration when it comes to door locks is the type of lock that is used. Schools should ensure that they are using high-quality locks that are difficult to pick or bypass. Electronic locks can be a good option, as they can be easily controlled and monitored from a central location.
Another consideration is how school doors are secured during the school day. It's important to ensure that all doors are locked during the day, except for designated entry points. This can help prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building.
Mobile solutions can be used to monitor door locks from anywhere at any time. School administrators and security personnel can use mobile apps to monitor which doors are locked and unlocked and to receive alerts if any doors are opened during off-hours.
Mobile apps can be used to remotely monitor and control access control systems, video surveillance systems, and lockdown systems. One benefit of such solutions is the ability to quickly respond to security incidents from anywhere at any time. School administrators and security personnel can use mobile apps to quickly initiate lockdown procedures, view video footage, and monitor access control systems.
Mobile solutions can also be used to streamline the security management process. For example, access control systems can be integrated with Active Directory (Microsoft) to simplify data entry and ensure that access control systems are up-to-date.
Schools should have a system in place for managing and monitoring all visitors who enter the building. Visitor management strategies may include funneling visitors through a single entrance. This can be done through the use of vestibuled entrances, which prevent individuals from entering the building until they have been properly vetted.
Visitor management systems can also screen visitors and ensure they are authorized to enter the building. This may involve checking IDs, running background checks, or verifying appointment information. Mobile solutions can be used to streamline the visitor management process. For example, schools can use mobile apps to pre-register visitors and issue digital badges that can be used to grant access to the building.
In the case of an emergency, it’s important to have a communication system that can alert parents, staff, and students. These can include text messages or email notifications with instructions related to the emergency.
Schools can combine the school safety systems above to reduce crime, prevent violence, and make schools a safe space for students. However, there can be challenges behind implementing school safety.
What are the Challenges of School Safety?
Despite the importance of school physical security, there are several challenges that schools must overcome to ensure that their students and staff are safe. The major challenges to school physical security are the cost of security, schools often use legacy-based security systems, schools may have outdated security plans, and schools may be transitioning their classroom setups.
One major challenge is the cost of implementing and maintaining security systems. Many schools have limited budgets and may not have the resources to invest in the latest security technology. This can make it difficult to keep up with evolving security threats and ensure that the school is adequately protected.
Another challenge is the prevalence of legacy-based security systems. Many schools are still using outdated technology, such as analog video surveillance systems and traditional key-based access control systems. These systems may be difficult to maintain and may not provide the level of security needed in today's environment.
Schools may also struggle with outdated security plans. Many schools have not updated their security plans in several years and may not be prepared to handle new security threats, such as active shooters or cyber physical attacks.
The Transition From Closed to Public Spaces
Finally, schools may struggle with the transition from closed to public spaces for events, sports, theatre, and more. Many schools are moving away from traditional classroom designs and creating more open and collaborative spaces. While this can have many benefits, it can also create new security challenges that schools must be prepared to address.
In order to ensure your school campus overcomes these safety challenges, it’s important to follow school safety best practices.
7 Safety Tips For Schools
There are several steps that schools can take to improve safety on campus and protect their students and staff.
1. Updating Security Systems
A challenge for schools is to update access to a school building when a teacher leaves. However, schools must clean up security systems and ensure that they are up-to-date and properly maintained.
Staff and faculty that have left the school system are often overlooked in terms of security, with badges remaining active when they shouldn't. Through integrations with programs such as Active Directory, staff can ensure their staff’s credentials are based on current employment status. As a result, schools can better secure their entrances, while reducing liability and human error.
2. Enforce Policies and Procedures
While most schools do have policies in writing, they are rarely communicated to staff and students as a whole. Schools should thoroughly train employees and staff on security procedures, such as lockdown drills and visitor management protocols, to ensure that everyone knows how to respond in the event of an emergency. Requiring staff to wear picture IDs can also be a great step in ensuring school safety, with 77% of schools now enforcing this (compared to 63% of schools 10 years ago).
3. Monitor Security Through a Mobile Device
Mobile solutions can be used to monitor security systems from anywhere at any time. School administrators and security personnel can use mobile apps to monitor access control systems, video surveillance systems, and lockdown systems from their mobile devices, allowing them to quickly respond to security incidents and ensure that the school is adequately protected.
4. Keep Doors Locked During the School Day
During the school day, all doors should be locked and in order to enter, visitors need to be given permission to come in. School doors should be set to timers that open during specific times, such as when buses arrive and when the school day ends. This can help prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building and create a more secure environment for students and staff.
When school is not in session, it often becomes an avenue for the public to enjoy sports games, shows or galas. While the school may not be locked during these events, it’s beneficial for schools to have timers on the door locks for after these events end.
5. Funnel Visitors Through a Single Entrance
Funneling visitors through a single entrance, such as a vestibule entrance, can help schools better manage and monitor visitors. This can help prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building and ensure that all visitors are properly screened and authorized to be on school grounds.
When schools have those secure vestibule entrances, visitors are technically not in the building until the receptionist, secretary or school resource officer allows them entry.
6. Deploy Live Cameras at Key Entry Points
Live cameras can be deployed at key entry points, such as school entrances and exits, to monitor and record activity and provide evidence in the event of an incident. Schools should ensure that cameras are properly placed and maintained and that footage is properly stored and protected.
Cameras are becoming increasingly important in keeping schools secure. When combined with locked doors, schools can use cameras to determine if visitors should be allowed in while school is in session. Additionally, security footage can help schools determine the next steps if a crime took place. For this reason, 91% of schools are leveraging security cameras to keep their premises safe (compared to 61% about 10 years ago).
7. Develop a Plan For Various Scenarios
Finally, schools should develop a plan that outlines procedures for responding to emergencies, such as active shooters or other security threats. These plans and procedures should be clearly communicated to all staff and students. Regular drills should be conducted to ensure that everyone knows how to properly respond in the event of an emergency.
School administrators are prioritizing the development of these plans, with 52% having a plan for a pandemic, 96% having a plan for an active shooter, and 93% having a plan for a bomb threat. These plans also need to be regularly updated and assessed based on the current landscape and new threats as they emerge.
School safety is important to ensure students can focus on learning, while staff focuses on lesson plans. By following these safety tips, schools can create a safer and more secure environment for their students and staff.
School Access Control Case Studies
Schools across the country have implemented a variety of access control systems to improve school physical security. Two examples of successful school access control systems are Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut and Granite Falls School District in Washington.
University Access Control Case Studies & Examples
Norwich Free Academy Improves Emergency Response Times
Norwich Free Academy implemented a comprehensive access control system to improve security and safety within their classrooms. The system included digital video surveillance and card access control, allowing the school to monitor and control access to all entrances and quickly respond to security incidents. By implementing these measures, the school was able to improve emergency response times and create a safer learning environment for students and staff.
Granite Falls School District Uses Access Control to Manage Entrances Across Schools
Similarly, the Granite Falls School District implemented an access control system to manage and monitor access to all doors and entrances in its schools. The system included a mobile app that allowed school administrators to monitor and control access from anywhere, at any time. By implementing these measures, the school district was able to create a safer and more secure learning environment for its students and staff.
Along with these use cases, numerous school districts have used LenelS2 products such as Magic Monitor® to view visitors in real-time and grant them access to entry points, ensuring that only approved visitors are allowed in school buildings to keep students and staff safe. In addition, districts have used the NetBox™ access control system to perform one-button lockdowns that automatically restrict visitor access to areas with an exemption for designated first responders.
LenelS2 School Security Solutions
LenelS2 is a leading provider of school physical security solutions that are designed to improve safety and protect students and staff. Their solutions include access control, video surveillance, lockdown systems, and visitor management. By implementing these solutions, schools can create a safer and more secure environment for their students and staff. Our technology is also device agnostic and can operate on the system chosen by the district, whether that be Microsoft, Apple, or Chromebooks.