Creating a secure environment for students and faculty on school campuses is now a top priority, and a task that stretches beyond security technology and broadens into consultative services, training and situational awareness. Each component, tailored specifically to the end-user, has a hand in making schools safer.
Schools are a highly specialized security niche. Recent tragic events continue to put this issue in the news and point to the lack of basic security at many facilities. School administrators are looking for expert support. They need a systems integrator that can build trust and a solid pathway for security and safety.
Resources on the education market
Being an advocate for safe schools is good to include as part of your consultative services. Many resources are available to learn about the pain points of this market so you can assess, evaluate and target specific security challenges with technology.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency leads a national effort to reduce risk to the nation’s cyber and physical infrastructure and is the National Coordinator for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. The organization has published two web-based resources on school physical security planning and implementation: the K-12 School Security Guide and the K-12 School Security Assessment Tool. Find them at cisa.gov.
Federal Commission on School Safety, sponsored by the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, released its Final Report on the Federal Commission on School Safety, which is the foundation for SchoolSafety.gov. It outlines steps to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to and recover from school violence. The organization was established after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
SchoolSafety.gov offers federal school safety resources, programs and actionable recommendations for K-12 schools. In addition to interactive and online resources such as webinars, it also details grants that can be leveraged to assist security strategies. Another resource for funding is the Congressional Research Service Federal Support for Safety and Security report, updated June 2022.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects, analyzes and distributes data related to education. Published in July 2020 by the Institute of Education Sciences and U.S. Department of Education, NCES released its findings on crime and safety: Crime, Violence and Safety in U.S. Public Schools in 2019–2020. The information is at nces.ed.gov.
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)—”Making Schools Safe for Students” from the NIJ Journal includes information and infographics on the status of educational institutions and preventative efforts. In addition, as part of the Safe School Initiative led by the Department of Education and Secret Service, NIJ supported a study exploring the behavior of student attackers. The study revealed that in 95% of cases, the perpetrator developed the idea to harm before the attack. It also found that 93% of the evaluated attackers indicated a need for help or behaved in a way that caused others to be concerned, solidifying the fact that preventative measures for educational end-users should include training on situational awareness of current threats. It is available at nij.ojp.gov.
Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with many entities to glean expertise from education, public safety and industry communities supporting effective safety and security practices. PASS has assembled comprehensive information on best practices for securing school facilities, which was recognized by the Federal Commission on School Safety and other task forces. PASS Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 and a Security Safety Checklist promote a layered and tiered approach to securing schools. Read more at passk12.org.
Technology for every budget
There’s a shocking deficit of security measures in schools, and many lack adequate locks and perimeter protection, so that’s the logical place to start. If a higher security level is desired, and the budget allows, electronic access control and cloud-managed systems may be in order. If it’s an upgrade, infrastructure requirements need to be carefully evaluated. Other potential security solutions could include intrusion detection, environmental and energy management sensors, video surveillance and shooter detection systems. Duress and mobile campus emergency notification is another possibility, and mass notification and paging/intercom systems are a must.
As remote learning continues to grow, school facilities and campuses are looking at other ways to attract students, focusing on wellness, experience and energy efficiency. Systems integrators can become part of the solution for safer schools with an “all in” mentality that builds trust between the contractor and school administration—and it all starts with education.