No one wants to have to write articles about the need for increased school safety measures due to recent events, as the topic can bring feelings of panic, dread, and frustration to those who need to pay attention. But, this is the reality of the world we live in today, and hopefully some big changes in the near future will help not only heal our country, but bring about a sense of hope and peace into the school setting – where there should never be threats of mass violence in the first place. This article provides an overview of the state of school safety, including the current measures in place, and how security technology providers can help.
What are schools looking for?
Any large structure or campus that holds a lot of students requires security measures: to ensure proper procedures are in place in case of fire or natural disasters, regardless of violent events. Most schools have developed new security measures to address the need to prepare for acts of mass violence, and new categories of technology for school safety have come into the market. These include panic buttons, and one-button lock down systems, among others.
Schools are looking for options that address their unique needs, based on the size and design of the building, and the procedures they have in place. Does your company offer consulting, or make security technology and hardware? Are you skilled in surveillance and looking for a new market to not only expand into, but provide a sense of much-needed safety? Schools should be your next focus.
The safety measures schools could implement include:
- Lock-down alarm systems, including “one-button” technology.
- Panic alarm systems, which dispatch emergency respondents immediately.
Emergency messaging systems:
- Desktop alert systems – In the event of an emergency, desktop alerts allow for warnings to pop up on the screen of every computer in a school network. This is great for areas with poor cellular network connectivity.
- Mass messaging software – sent out via text message to all relevant school personnel, parents, and guardians.
- Social media alerts – pops up a relevant alert message if student/parents opts in.
Emergency management plans including the following drills:
- Lock-down – School doors are locked and students remain in their classrooms. Sometimes windows are blocked from outside view, along with other measures, depending on the nature of the threat.
- Lock-out – School doors are locked and no one may venture outside, but classes go on as normal, in most cases.
- Shelter in Place – This can refer to measures that keep students in their classroom, with doors locked, windows blocked, and an in a secure position in the event of a terrorist threat, or environmental disaster.
- Evacuation Drills – For fires, bomb threats, and other hazards that require vacating the school building.
Typical Daily security measures:
- Controlled access to buildings during school hours.
- Security cameras used to monitor the schools.
Additional measures that are more common today:
- Require staff to wear ID badges at all times.
- Enforced strict dress code.
- Students uniforms.
- Random metal detector checks.
Crime prevention measures:
- Social Net Trackers – This type of program keeps on the lookout for social media posts with trigger words that prompt further investigation. This may or may not be controversial, depending on student/parental participation/opt in.
- Anonymous Alerts – This allows students, parents, or school personnel to anonymously report incidents – moments that make you pause and question someone’s behavior, that you would hope the authorities were alerted to.
How Do Teachers Feel About Gun Violence in Schools?
WeAreTeachers recently surveyed over 400 teachers about these issues and found that most teachers feel safe in their schools, but that stress is indeed taking a toll on their daily routine. Teachers want—but aren’t getting—professional development to help them support at-risk students, feeling that increased social support could decrease gun violence. They support lock-down drills, but aren’t sure if they can ultimately keep students safe. Most teachers don’t want guns in school, but many support the idea of arming willing educators. Statistically-speaking, many teachers support gun control measures, but some are also strong supporters of the Second Amendment as well. It is important that security consultants and technology providers understand the stakeholders in the market they aim to serve, in order to become allies in the efforts to make schools feel like a safer space.
Strategies for implementing school safety measures:
Take advantage of spring break and other planned holiday breaks where the school is empty for a few days/week. This is the perfect time for school administrators to take action to make small improvements in safety and security that will make a big difference. From assessing and testing current security technology to revamping risk management plans, Danielle Myers of the School Solutions Network – an initiative that strengthens schools by leveraging education, technology, expert counsel, and community resources – can elaborate on the five things administrators can put in place to improve school safety while students are out celebrating the holidays.
Surveillance and Security Businesses Take Note:
The House chamber is set to pass a bipartisan bill from Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) that would create a new grant program to help educate students and teachers about how to spot and report signs of gun violence.
The Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act would appropriate $50 million per year for:
- Schools to develop “threat assessment systems” in line with recommendations from the FBI and Secret Services, in hopes of stopping criminals before they commit acts of violence.
- Anonymous reporting systems to be implemented for use by students, teachers, or others to contact law enforcement about potential threats.
- Improving school security through the use of technologies and increased personnel.
- None of the money in the bill would be used to arm teachers.
This grant money and the proposed measures it suggests will require skillful consultation and implementation of hardware/training/drills from qualified professionals in the near future.
Overall, this complicated topic requires information, leadership, and funding. Technology can be helpful in not only preventing violent events in schools, but also providing a sense of much needed security, and the careful handling of events if they unfold. Until big changes take place, innovators can intelligently plan for the worst and hope for the best.