U.S. K-12 Schools Announce Security Improvements

LOS ANGELES – School districts from around the nation have upgraded or are planning to upgrade various aspects of their security systems – be it improved access control, security cameras, additional officers or other solutions.

Illinois

In Galesburg, Ill., 50 cameras were installed this summer at Galesburg High School: 11 on the exterior and 41 inside the building. In total, more than $310,000 worth of CCTV equipment is now deployed on campus.

From their computers, 10 school administrators will be able to monitor the camera images. Eventually, local police will also have access to the system. The cameras will be able to record approximately two weeks of video.

In addition to the Galesburg High School project, four additional exterior cameras were installed at Lombard Middle School.

Connecticut

In New Canaan, Conn., the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance approved a new security camera system in the city’s three elementary schools and Saxe Middle School. The elementary schools will have between five and seven exterior cameras installed on each campus, while Saxe Middle school will install 13 exterior and 42 interior cameras. The cameras will not be constantly monitored, but police will have access to the recordings and live video during emergencies.

Additionally, a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone system and upgraded doors and locks have also received approval and should be installed by the beginning of the school year. Each campus entrance will also have at least one video intercom system.

The video and access upgrades should cost about $330,682. In total, the board has set aside $1 million for school security for 2007.

North Carolina

Schools in the New Bern, N.C., area will be installing digital video cameras on school buses. Twenty-six cameras will be installed in Craven County buses, which are additions to the units already in place. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, as many as 200 buses will soon have cameras.  More than $300,000 has been set aside for transportation video surveillance.

In the next five years, the Cumberland County school district is hoping to add cameras to all of its 510 buses. Recently, it purchased 40 units.

Schools in Pamlico County, which already have black and white video surveillance units, will upgrade so the cameras will be digital, be able pan, tilt and zoom, as well as provide color footage.

Pennsylvania

In Northampton, Pa., new security guards, a walk-through metal detector and an X-ray baggage scanner are just some of the changes being implemented at Northampton Area High School. The changes are in response to an incident that occurred last year when a student used his guitar case to sneak a rifle into class and threaten to commit suicide.  As a result, the school was evacuated and there was a standoff with police. Since then, there have been some rumors about shootings that have led to panic and a campus lockdown.

The new security guards at Northampton Area High School are the third set in about a year. Also, on Aug. 6, a second police officer was hired to assist Mark Marino, the head of security for the district who was hired three months after the standoff.

Other changes include the banning of cargo pants, Mohawk haircuts, ripped clothing and backpacks. Restrictions on bathroom breaks, however, have been loosened.

With regards to the metal detection unit and baggage X-ray machine, it is anticipated there will be random checks, resulting in the screening of every seventh or tenth student. District officials say, however, that all of these changes are a work in progress.

Minnesota

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., school districts are using more police officers and limiting the entrance of visitors.

A second school resource officer is being added to Robbinsdale Cooper High School, and the number of school officers with the Brooklyn Park Police Department will also be increased over the next two years. Additionally, a new school safety position was created for the Spring Lake Park School District.

The Fridley and Osseo school districts have recently secured their entrances. Now visitors must pass the main office before they can go on to school grounds.

Improved emergency response plans, the banning of cell phones and anonymous tip lines are other solutions being implemented in the region.

The changes were prompted by an increase in bullying, violent incidents and gang activity at various campuses. Electronic gadget thefts have also posed a problem for districts. Additionally, the Virginia Tech tragedy that occurred in April played a part in spurring the revisions.

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