CLEVELAND — Schools across the country are increasing their focus on school security following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December. As a result, the summer break saw a wave of renovations and upgrades for school security as the tragedies of Sandy Hook remain fresh in minds of school administrators and parents.
According to Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, as time passes schools should remain committed to school safety as well as utilize increased communication and emergency protocol versus increased security technology.
“We’re happy to see schools doing things again with security and preparedness efforts. We just wish school boards and superintendents would sustain that level of interest and activities when there is not a crisis in the forefront of everyone’s minds and parent demand to know what their schools are doing to strengthen safety,” Trump said. “Smart superintendents, principals and school boards recognize that proactive security and preparedness efforts are not only the right thing to do, but also a strong tool for strengthening school community trust and confidence in their leadership.”
Since the Sandy Hook shootings, Trump said, there have been some schools that have taken school security to what he considers ridiculous extremes such as bulletproof backpacks, bulletproof whiteboards and teaching students as well as teachers to throw things or attack an armed gunmen.
“These all meet the emotional security needs, but in reality will do little — and may even create a false sense of unrealistic security — to actually make kids, teachers and schools more safe,” Trump said.
The most essential school security needs are much more discreet and less fad-driven, Trump said. Utilizing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in new buildings and renovations, schools can provide substantial security improvements such as reconfiguring main entranceways and enhancing hallway supervision with improved sight lines.
“It’s easy to point to more cameras or additional police at a school, neither of which onto their own are bad things, but it’s harder to point to adults building relationships with kids, improved counseling and mental health support, regular planning and cross training with first responders, and diversified lockdown, evacuation, fire and other drills – all of which truly make schools safer,” Trump said.
Security technology does not need to be extensive, Trump said, and most schools lack the budget necessary to purchase new technologies that do not, in most cases, blend with the school environment. Therefore, schools should seek out increased day-to-day supervision techniques and training staff, as well as students, appropriately.
“Superintendents, principals, and school boards must invest as much, if not more, in their people and in dedicating time to safety and preparedness planning as they do in physical security enhancements,” Trump said. “Too often we see well-intended school leaders who will be quick to drop some dollars for physical security equipment they can point to when talking with parents, but they are much more guarded in releasing time for training school staff, diversifying their lockdown or evacuation drills and doing meaningful, detailed planning with their first responders.”