Public education remains a right of every child today. However, with security threats a real concern, many parents choose not to take advantage of this free education. They elect to homeschool their children or send them to private school. Authorities recognize this and have taken steps to tighten security in the past few years.
Today, many classrooms have interior locks. Children and teachers take part in active shooter drills, and some schools have law enforcement on site to patrol the building. Nevertheless, measures aren’t consistent across schools. Protocols put into place differ by locality, schools, and more.
Even with these measures in place, school shootings continue. Genetec wants to see that change and offers solutions for schools that will help tighten security and keep kids and teachers safe.
Most public schools in America today, including charter schools, have measures in place to keep buildings and classrooms physically secured. For instance, the schools control access to buildings during normal school hours. They do so by locking or monitoring doors and loading docks or requiring every visitor to the school to check in with school personnel and wear a badge while on the premises. In fact, less than three percent of schools don’t use these measures today. In addition, three out of four schools now have locks on classroom doors to prevent unauthorized access to classrooms.
This restricted access is the most common security measure in schools today. Over ninety percent of schools today restrict access to school buildings. This doesn’t change by location, enrollment, grades served, or the characteristics of the student population.
However, some disparities are seen. Locking classroom doors are less prevalent in lower-income schools. Researchers assess this by looking at the number of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. When 75 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-lunch, only 69 percent of schools have locking classroom doors. In those schools where 25 percent of students or fewer qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, 78 percent have locking classroom doors. Charter schools, regardless of income level, are more likely to have locking classroom doors that conventional public schools.
Roughly two-thirds of public schools today have security staff on campus a minimum of once a week. This number increases dramatically over a ten-year period. However, in many schools, these security workers aren’t regular citizens. More than half of schools now have a sworn law enforcement officer on site, and this officer carries a firearm. This number has almost doubled in the past decade.
When it comes to security staff, however, disparities are seen between schools. Larger schools are more likely to have security staff. Those schools with over 1,000 students are extremely likely to have security personnel on site. This isn’t the case in schools with fewer than 300 students. Security staff remain more prevalent in middle and high schools, as well. Only a little more than half of elementary schools currently have security personnel on site.
Furthermore, school characteristics play a role in whether security personnel are armed. In schools where 75 percent of the students are racial or ethnic minorities, security staff members carry firearms. This accounts for over 40 percent of schools today.
Responding to an Active Shooter
Most schools today also have a response plan in place for an active shooter situation. They have a written plan outlining what steps must be taken if an active shooter is on school grounds. In addition, the majority of schools conduct lockdown drills with students annually.
In the event the school must be locked down because of an active shooter, the school buildings are secured along with the school grounds. The number of schools with an active shooter plan in place has increased significantly in the last 20 years. However, the definition of an active shooter has changed over the years. In 2003-04, when this data first started being collected, these incidents were referred to as shootings. Today, to qualify as this type of situation, there must be one or more individuals actively attempting to kill people in an area that is populated.
Teams Dedicated to Threat Assessment
A few years ago, two out of three schools reported they had a threat assessment team in place, and this number has likely increased. Their job is to identify, assess, and manage students who are at risk of committing targeted violence in the school. School staff typically make up this team. City and suburban schools are more likely to have this team in place, and the teams are more commonly seen in middle and high schools and those schools with high enrollment numbers. As with armed personnel, threat assessment teams are more common in schools with large racial or ethnic minorities.
Communications and Technology
Security-related communications systems and technologies are commonly found in schools today. Security cameras remain prevalent and many staff members now carry two-way radios. In addition, 70 percent of schools have an electronic notification system to alert parents to school-wide emergencies. Two out of three schools have a system in place where threats can be anonymously reported.
The number of schools using these systems and technologies continues to increase. Some schools have silent alarms to alert law enforcement to problems on campus. Again, differences are seen based on the school’s location, student population characteristics, and more.
Middle and high schools are more likely to have threat reporting systems in place, along with security cameras. These measures aren’t seen as often in elementary schools. Security cameras are less common in schools where racial and ethnic minorities make up a large portion of the student population. Here, threat reporting systems are the norm.
Panic buttons appear frequently in schools where few students benefit from free or reduced-price lunches. Security cameras aren’t as widespread in the West, but 98 percent of schools in the South have them. Schools with high student enrollment typically have these measures in place. They aren’t as common in smaller schools.
With so many security measures to choose from today, schools must determine which measures best meet their needs. The goal must always be to protect the students and staff from a range of threats. With the right partner, doing so becomes easier. Every school needs to find this partner today.