School Security: Critical Component of Educational Risk Management
In the aftermath of the shootings that took place one year ago this December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, school security became a front-and-center and often heated issue. State and local governments, school districts, supervisors, educators and parents have been struggling to come up with a consensus as to how to keep our educational institutions safe and protect our children. We’re revisiting the issue and sharing some of what school security experts have to say about keeping our children safe in schools.
Overwhelming, the majority of experts admit that 100% safe schools are in fact not possible, or at the very least, are impractical. School principal and school security expert Casey King in a report this year, noted, “unless a school is behind an electric security fence with bars over the windows and armed guards throughout, it will always be vulnerable. The key is finding a balance between creating schools that feel more like prisons than places of learning and allowing your school to be an easy target for violence. This involves working to eliminate unintentionally unsafe behavior among school staff and establishing a ‘positive culture of school security’”.
For example, the biggest gaps found when doing risk assessments at educational institutions is in human behavior. While few schools have all of the security and emergency preparedness technology they could benefit from, most of the preventable deaths and serious injuries involved gaps in student supervision, people propping open doors, not wearing their staff identification cards, not properly screening visitors, problems in application of emergency procedures, bad security and emergency plan content, etc.
Moreover, a school can have all of the industry’s best and most up-to-date security equipment, but if the staff is not properly trained on how to use it, the equipment is rendered much less useful. One school security expert, Michael Dorn, who consults with educational institutions here and abroad, found that when running tests on the security equipment installed at schools, he and his team “have consistently been able to beat any form of security technology (access control, visitor management, monitored security camera systems, metal detectors, security X-ray equipment, etc.) when the staff has not been trained and a positive culture of school security has not been established.”
The bottom line: It’s critical that proper training take place for teachers and staff on how to implement security strategies and how to react in an emergency in order to create a safer school.
School security experts when questioned are also overwhelmingly in favor of School Resource Officers (SROs) on school campuses as an effective measure to increase school safety. An SRO is loosely defined as simply a police officer assigned to, or based out of, a school campus. These SROs, however, require vigorous, specialized training, and should be in uniform so that they are easily identified in the event of an emergency.
When it comes to parents helping to improve their children’s safety, communication between the parents, schools and students is key. Security experts urge parents to ask questions about what specifically is being done to decrease risk at their school. They recommend that parents ask school leadership what their five highest risks are, and what they are doing to mitigate each risk.
Parents are also encouraged to become active participants in their school’s emergency planning and take specific actions to help improve the safety of their kids’ schools. Parents need to provide up-to-date emergency contact and student release information to schools in addition to being aware of key aspects of the school’s Emergency/Crisis Management Plan.
What Does A Safe School Look Like?
The specific components for a safer school may vary, but experts agree that there are several common measures that most institutions should undertake. These include:
- Having two-way radios for all staff to communicate
- A secure (locked), monitored entrance
- Closed Circuit TVs that are constantly monitored in real time
- ID cards worn by all staff at all times
- Identifying visitors and escorting them in and out of the building
- Competent supervision of students by staff, especially during outdoor activities
- A thorough assessment by an expert security consultant of the school’s security liabilities including recommendations regarding how to amend them
- Thorough and frequent training of all staff regarding how to implement the recommended security measures
- Frequent drills of all different kinds of emergencies so that staff and students can practice what to do if an emergency does occur
Caitlin-Morgan provides insurance coverage to many types of educational facilities including to higher education facilities, public schools, private & charter schools and schools for special needs. We also can assist you with your client’s risk assessment and overall risk management program, including school safety and crisis and recovery programs. Give us a call at 877.226.1027 for more information about our educational insurance program and services.