More Schools Upgrade Campus Security with Window Film

Considering the installation of safety and security window film? Work with local first responders to ensure it’s implemented properly.

On Dec. 14, 2014, two families of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings filed suit against the town of Newtown, Conn., and the Newtown Public Schools Board. The suit cited lax security on the day 20 students and six adults were shot and killed.

Among the issues raised in the complaint was the ability for gunman Adam Lanza to enter the school after shooting out front glass windows near the school’s offices and the lack of bullet-proof windows in the building. 

Sandy Hook has been the primary motivation for school districts nationwide to increase security in their buildings. The initiatives have included adding and upgrading surveillance cameras, improved phone systems, magnetic card entry systems and more secure entryways and other vulnerable building entry points.

Considerable discussion and debate has taken place among school officials over how best to secure entryways and other entry points from intruders. Installation of shatter-proof windows and entryway reconstruction has proven to be cost-prohibitive for many schools. Increasingly, they have turned to safety and security window film installation as a reliable and cost-effective alternative.

“There was no way we could afford to replace the windows, so film was the economical way to go,” says Amy Campbell, safety coordinator at Geneva [Ill.] Community Unit School District 304. In February, the school district, located near Chicago, had safety and security window film installed in the entryways and on vulnerable first-floor glass in nine school buildings.

Geneva is one of at least 22 known school districts around the country that have included safety and security window film as part of their security upgrades, but the number appears to be quickly growing.

“[Film] sales have just skyrocketed,” says Mike Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that advises school officials on safety. “We had some prior to Sandy Hook doing this, but it’s much more predominant since.”

Connecticut and Illinois are leading the way with 12 and seven, respectively. In the Chicago area, there appears to be a synergistic effect at work. Once Geneva schools announced they were installing safety and security window film in September, nearby Minooka, Lake Zurich and Barrington schools soon followed.

Funding Poses Challenges to Projects
As with any large school project, funding security upgrades has been the biggest barrier. Connecticut and Illinois are leading the way in safety and security film installation projects for good reason: Each state has provided significant funding to school districts for overall security upgrades.

Not surprisingly, it started in Connecticut soon after Sandy Hook. The state legislature quickly passed the Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act, which led to the Competitive Grant Program for school security. In the 2013-14 school year, the state awarded $21.1 million in grants to 111 districts impacting 604 school buildings.  A required local match, tied to each district’s resources, totaled $19.4 million. The program was renewed for 2014-15, with the state awarding $21.6 million to 98 districts and 445 school buildings. The local match was $16.2 million.

“We all wish that this program was not needed, but unfortunately we must adapt to the new reality that Sandy Hook tragically brought to our state,” says Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman when the grant program was announced. “This funding will not only make our schools more secure, but will give us the peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to live up to our obligation to provide a safe learning environment for our children.”

In Illinois, $25 million was awarded in May, 2014 by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to 448 districts involving security upgrades to 1,312 school buildings.

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