Calls For National School Security Guidance Grow As State Requirements Scrutinized
Advocates say a new study on school facility security standards supports the demand for more guidance.
School security advocates demanded more guidance from the government as findings of an ongoing study on state school security requirements revealed minimal standards that vary widely.
Advocates called for the creation of an independent federal school security board or National Center of Excellence during an event on Capitol Hill June 28. They stressed that such an organization would be a good way to organize guidelines and best practices for people making school security decisions.
“A National Center of Excellence for School Safety could be that hub for research, training, intellectual exchange and a place where people can go to ask questions and get resources,” Dr. Erroll Southers of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California said at the Security Industry Association’s GovSummit event.
Study Shows Inconsistencies in State K-12 School Security Standards
The demands followed the release of preliminary findings from a comprehensive analysis of school security requirements. The study, which is being conducted by the Police Foundation, shows only 15 states had some type of school facility security requirements prior to the Parkland, Florida shooting (see map below). The study also shows that many state legislatures are actively discussing school security measures.
Ben Gorban, the policy analyst for the Police Foundation who presented the findings, said that even among states with security requirements, those requirements varied significantly in focus and few addressed school facility security “in a meaningful way.”
Additionally, the study found that very few of the states with requirements have outlined clear repercussions if schools don’t meet those requirements.
The Police Foundation, a national non-profit and non-partisan organization, concluded that other issues with existing requirements include:
- Many lack clarity and specificity
- Many do not include implementation steps for districts to follow
- They can be very difficult to locate online for administrators and the public
“We learned school security legislation is difficult to find,” Gorban said. “A lot of school safety standards start as fire safety, so when you go to look for it, it’s often still in the fire code; so if you’re a teacher or parent, you may not know where to look for that.”
The number of states with school security requirements may be discouraging to some, but since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Police Foundation found state legislatures across the country have begun considering the issue.
But despite that activity, very few states have actually passed legislation since February 14.
The study also found that 20 states had general exercises, toolkits and training prior to the Parkland shooting but far fewer had publicly-available guidance for schools to follow to secure their campuses.
Gorban says there’s been a lot of focus on safety initiatives like anti-bullying and anti-drugs but not as much on school security regulations.
“There has to be a clear distinction between what safe schools are and what secure schools are, and right now legislation on what secure schools are is lacking.”
The Police Foundation does not advocate for any particular policies.
The Secure Schools Alliance (SSA), a non-profit group of security industry, law enforcement, public safety and education officials, organized the Capitol Hill event and funded the Police Foundation’s research.
For the research, The Police Foundation reviewed publicly-available materials including:
- Legislation and proposals
- Guidelines, assessment tools, toolkits, resources, etc.
- Open-source media outlets
The Push For School Security Guidance
Organizations like SSA are increasingly pushing for a national conversation between education officials, security industry leaders and government agencies. Robert Boyd, SSA’s executive director, has called for the creation of a School Safety Center in every state. Some recent milestones in those areas include:
- In 2016, lawmakers launched the School Safety Caucus to facilitate those talks and look at the best ways for schools to keep student safe.
- The Police Foundation found that Delaware, Rhode Island and New York have passed school security legislation since Feb. 14. Florida has also passed a sweeping law that deals with school security, and Maryland passed a law that bolsters school emergency preparedness and mental health resources.
- The federal STOP School Violence Act was passed in March.
- Campus Safety has written about large initiatives by state governors to improve school security in states like Texas. These initiatives often come in the wake of tragedies.
- The National Fire Protection Agency’s newly-released active shooter guidance can be used by schools.
Scott Breor, the director of the Protective Security Coordination Division of the Department of Homeland Security, assured the GovSummit’s attendees that government officials are working hard to support K-12 schools.
“We are definitely not waiting for the shoe to drop,” Breor said with respect to providing security guidance for schools. “We take this very seriously.”
Tim Eckersley, the president of Allegion, which partners with SSA, said at the event that a national board should be investigating and learning from each one of the recent tragedies in U.S. schools.
“If you’re in school and worried about whether or not you’re safe, there’s no possible way to learn,” Eckersley said. “We can make that happen. We can make schools better than they are. I know that we can do better, and it is our moral obligation as an industry to do that.”
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The minute the National government gets involved there will be serious limitations that will hinder, costly licensing, additional costs, and one-size-fits-all equipment, and staffing that will be too costly for small private colleges and schools. I am highly in favor of armed and physically skilled school staff or in larger institutions specifically assigned security staff. Legally allow us to protect our campus and we will decide upon the best fit for our unique situation. Florida needs state legislation for private colleges. Currently in Florida, all public schools have been hardened with dedicated armed personnel. Many large colleges have full-time police departments but for smaller private colleges, our hands are tied. Can every college afford full-time armed personnel or their own police force? No! With multiple highly trained and licensed staff our private college is not currently permitted to carry concealed on campus. We know the need and want to protect our students. To carry a firearm on campus is against state law. We know the mentally insane and religiously motivated radical will see this soft target as an opportunity. They pay no heed to the law. Governor Scott, we need legislation on the state level that allows us to stand our ground at private colleges like we can do anywhere in our city, our churches, businesses, restaurants, etc in Florida. If not, at least allow us to participate in the Sentinel Program so that we can be deputized to protect these young men & women. To have zero options is ridiculous.
Every school facility must be protected. “Harden Soft Targets”. There is no perfect solution and no one can completely stop mass tragedies from happening. Those in responsibility must come to a realization secure school facilities will cost funding. It maybe a pay be now (security) or pay me later (law suit) action. Proactive security strategies can be considered, actionable recommendations discussed and then implemented in an effort to mitigate. So much can be done better.
No one (support, teaching staff, administration, students, visitors, vendors) should have the ability to freely enter any school unchallenged and stroll down the hallway without checking in, providing identification, having their bag checked, walk thru entry system and/or being approached and questioned.
Examine the level and strength or weakness of your facility and the current security procedures. Examine each school campus, minimize access points and enforce entry procedure. Stagger your starting entry times slightly along with your dismissal time. “Everyone” enters thru a system meant to detect the existence of a weapon.
Protection is an ongoing process. You need to discuss and implement security policy and procedures meant to harden a soft target and deter, detect and deny. This is not rocket science but you must admit to yourself … this must get done !
Examine: aspects such as perimeter integrity and management, designated access ingress and egress points, implement & utilize positive entry control systems, all entering the school facility are required to enter thru designated and limited access points “after” going thru bag check and magnetometer screening, proper number of trained School Resource Officers determined by an agreed upon formula of either square footage or student population of the school (simply stated = one SRO per school is a waste of time and $$), SRO’s are visible and constantly roving across the campus throughout the school day, visual surveillance and retention capability (CCTV), vulnerable and restricted areas, congregation areas (gym, cafeteria, library), communication system, classroom doors maybe locked from the interior with windows that can be covered, consider certain classroom barricade devices (check with officials for fire code requirements), provide “active shooter” information and training to students and staff, etc., etc. Just a few measures of many to discuss and to consider.
Review and utilize ISO 31000. A generic risk management standard which can be applied to any type of risk. Be proactive. Review your security policy and procedure. Make every effort to seriously decrease the possibility entry can be made to any school with any type of weapon.
Utilize the media. Broadly speaking, publicize implemented security procedures. Publicity may discourage another from attempting same if he/she knows a “soft target has been hardened”. The media must accept that blanket coverage for hours, for days creates the incentive for additional tragedies of this type. Briefly report the subject(s) as the despicable individual they are. Briefly report the incident, do not name or show the photo of the assailant and move on.
Securing a school facility really is not very hard to accomplish. Administrators must simply realize it must be done and then address what must be done.
Good article on Summit. Unfortunately, one major piece of the solution is a roadmap for schools to follow as they work to implement safe schools approaches. Most schools don’t have the resources to develop a safe schools approach and man of the states that are considering and developing safe schools approaches will “reinvent the wheel”. The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has published Safe Schools Guidelines and also presented at the summit. The 4th edition of the guidelines will be released in August and current version and other whitepapers are available at http://www.passk12.org. PASS has been involved with government agencies, NFPA (referenced in 731 and 3000), several schools districts including Parkland, to help promote a national standard template.
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