Survey: K-12 Schools Prioritizing Physical Security, Colleges Lagging Behind

Campus Safety’s latest survey finds that K-12 schools are way ahead of institutions of higher education in conducting security site assessments and maintaining door locks.

Survey: K-12 Schools Prioritizing Physical Security, Colleges Lagging Behind

Photo via Adobe, by Aycan

The numbers from this year’s Campus Safety Access Control and Lockdown Survey have been crunched, and the May 2022 Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, appears to have prompted many K-12 schools to pay much closer attention to campus security.

However, the Uvalde tragedy appears to not have impacted institutions of higher education as much. Colleges are lagging way behind their K-12 peers in conducting site assessments to identify security vulnerabilities at their facilities.

When comparing K-12 with higher education and healthcare survey takers, this year’s school respondents were the most likely to conduct frequent assessments: 27% said they conduct monthly assessments, and 13% said they conduct quarterly assessments, for a total of 40%. Only 25% of institutions of higher education have conducted monthly or quarterly assessments. Twenty-seven percent said they don’t know how often their campuses conduct security assessments and 11% said their facilities never conduct these types of reviews. Put those two figures together, and that totals 38% of all college respondents.

Overall, more than one in five (22%) hospital, university, and K-12 respondents said they either don’t know (16%) or their campuses never (6%) conduct security site assessments.


When we asked survey participants when they last conducted security site assessments of their campuses, 80% of K-12 respondents and 78% of healthcare respondents said their facilities have done one within the year, while only 47% of institutions of higher education have done so. Additionally, 33% of K-12 school respondents said the last time their campus conducted a security site assessment was this month, compared to only 13% of college respondents.

Nearly a third of colleges said they don’t know the last time their campus conducted a security site assessment, compared to 10% of K-12 respondents and 13% of healthcare respondents.

Most Common Access Control Solutions Adopted: Locks and Photo IDs

One could argue that the lack of site assessments conducted by institutions of higher education could be due to the fact that these types of campuses, along with healthcare facilities, are further ahead of K-12 schools in implementing security technologies.

For example, our survey found that more than 83% of college and healthcare respondents said their facilities have mechanical locks, compared to only 77% of K-12 schools and districts. Colleges and hospitals are also more likely to have electronic locks, wireless locks, wired locks, proximity card systems, smart card systems, biometrics, access control software, and electronic parking gates.

That said, K-12 schools are much more likely to have perimeter fences and window safety and/or security film installed than colleges or hospitals. K-12 and healthcare respondents are much more likely than university respondents to have visitor management software (45% for K-12 and healthcare compared to only 11% for institutions of higher education). They are also much more likely to have secure entrance vestibules/mantraps.

Overall, mechanical locks, photo IDs, and electronic locks are the most common access control, lock, visitor management, and door hardware solutions on academic and healthcare campuses.

More K-12 Campuses Than Colleges Can Lock Classroom Doors from the Inside

In addition to asking about security site assessments, which were new questions in this year’s Access Control and Lockdown Survey, Campus Safety asked survey participants if their campus classroom and office doors can be locked from the inside.

When comparing how K-12 and college survey participants responded to the classroom question, the differences were again significant. Fifty-seven percent of K-12 respondents said more than 90% of their classroom doors can be locked from the inside. That’s 16 percentage points more than colleges — only 31% of higher ed respondents said 91-100% of their classroom doors can be locked from the inside.

However, 10% of K-12 and 9% of higher ed respondents said that none of their classroom doors can be locked from the inside.


For office doors, although 58% of all respondents said more than 80% of these doors can be locked from the inside, there is considerable variation when the responses are broken down by sector. Nearly two thirds (64%) of K-12 respondents said 81-100% of their office doors can be locked from the inside, compared to 53% of college survey takers, and only 44% from healthcare.

For campuses that can lock only 0-10% of their office doors from the inside, K-12 schools also lead the way at 18%, compared to 9% of colleges, and 7% of hospitals.

One thing to keep in mind: for the respondents who said their classroom and/or office doors can be locked from the inside, hopefully they aren’t using door-blocking/barricade devices. These types of devices, which generally aren’t code-compliant, are dangerous. (For further coverage of this controversy, see A Dangerous Trend: 15% of Campuses Have Bought Barricade Devices below.)

Only a small percentage of doors on campuses can be remotely locked by campus security or administrators.

There is significant variation among campus types as to the percentage of doors with working locks and hardware on them. At 84%, K-12 respondents were the most likely to say that more than 80% of the locks and hardware on their doors are working properly. Nearly three in four (74%) said 91-100% have properly working locks and door hardware.

Comparing those results with the statistics from colleges and hospitals, only 70% of higher ed respondents said 81-100% of their door locks and hardware are properly working. The percentage of healthcare respondents who said more than 80% of their door hardware and locks are working properly is only 66%.

A Dangerous Trend: 15% of Campuses Have Bought Barricade Devices

A question on door-blocking devices was also added to this year’s survey. Unfortunately, a small but disturbing percentage (15%) of respondents said they have purchased door-blocking/barricade devices. When broken down by sector, those percentages are:

  • K-12: 18%
  • Hospital: 17%
  • Higher Ed: 10%

Door-blocking/barricade devices generally don’t comply with fire codes or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even in the jurisdictions that do allow this type of equipment, campus protection professionals need to remember that there is a whole host of other reasons why these devices are dangerous. Campus Safety has covered this controversy in depth previously. Click here and here for the many, many reasons why campuses should not be using this type of equipment.

Schools, hospitals, and colleges that buy and deploy door-blocking/barricade devices are setting themselves up for a tragedy that is foreseeable and avoidable.

Campus Security Pros Moderately Confident in Their Ability to Prevent, Mitigate Incidents

Keeping in mind that the intent of campuses installing access control and lockdown solutions is to prevent and mitigate gun violence, domestic terrorism, and other types of crime, Campus Safety asked how confident respondents are in their organization’s ability to prevent and/or mitigate unauthorized intrusion, active shooter attacks, and active bomber attacks.

Respondents’ levels of confidence varied significantly. K-12 and healthcare respondents said they are much more confident than college survey participants in their organization’s ability to prevent unauthorized intrusion. School and hospital average confidence levels are 3.77 and 3.49 (on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being “not confident at all” and 5 being “very confident), respectively, compared to only 2.68 for higher ed.

For the most part, K-12 survey takers are somewhat more confident than their college and hospital peers in their organization’s ability to prevent active shooter attacks (3.38 vs. 2.62 and 2.53, respectively), and mitigate active bombings (3.14 vs. 2.77 and 2.50, respectively).

The only situation where all three types of campuses have somewhat similar confidence levels is active shooter mitigation: K-12’s average confidence level is 3.62, higher ed’s is 3.34, and healthcare’s is 3.17.

All three types of survey participants have the least confidence in their organization’s ability to prevent active bomber attacks: K-12’s average confidence level is 3.02, higher ed’s is 2.77, and healthcare’s is 2.50.


Campus Safety thanks the nearly 350 school, university, and healthcare security professionals who participated in our survey. We truly appreciate you input!

Sponsored by:

Detex Logo security, Verkada

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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2 responses to “Survey: K-12 Schools Prioritizing Physical Security, Colleges Lagging Behind”

  1. While the survey statistics may be accurate and helpful, what this article doesn’t explore is what we, in higher education know: it is challenging to compare apples to oranges. College campuses are different than hospitals and K-12 because colleges are intended to be open and welcoming to the public. Right or wrong, colleges serve mostly adults who don’t want an environment of lockdown and security fences. They want inviting space with lots of windows. In addition to that, institutions of higher learning like mine (2-year community colleges) do not have the financial or personnel resources to spend on elaborate security measures. They don’t usually have a plethora of staff that can devote time to seek funding or integrate expensive technical solutions into the existing systems. Most of us do the best we can with the resources we have available, even though it is not nearly enough.

  2. Mark Manthei (Ret. Chief of Police) Security Systems Administrator says:

    Lagging Behind is an understatement some of the School Dist. need to start budgeting for Security Systems every budget cycle and not wait until something happens.

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