Safety Plans Can Prevent More than the “Active Shooter”
Reality: In 2011, 25 murders and 6 suicides were recorded on K-12 campuses across the country. Nearly 1.4 million nonfatal incidents of violence occurred. Thirty-one versus 1.4 million.
Our public appetite for sensational news has driven many districts to draft their safety plans around preventing an “active shooter” incident. I believe the focus needs to be redirected to the reality of what is happening on campuses on a daily basis. Tools that can help districts identify threats, develop solutions, and control messaging to parents and the community are essential. Third party security assessments, and statistics, can help districts prioritize safety enhancements and capital expenditures based on actual conditions and reality, not on a public frenzy fed by media sensationalism.
Step One: Acknowledge that daily incidents of crime and bullying occur on every campus.
Newsflash - the majority of incidents are not a Sandy Hook-like tragedy. Eighty five percent of districts report nonviolent crimes and almost all districts recognize bullying happens on their campuses. Although discounted as non-life threatening skirmishes, these episodes challenge the rightful safety and security of students, contribute to the dropout rate, and can leave lifelong emotional scars.
Step Two: Evaluate facilities and identify the most common incidents on campus.
A safety and security assessment should be conducted to gather input from stakeholders, identify facility deficiencies based on standard security guidelines, and identify the most frequent incidents. Only with an assessment, can a district prioritize cost effective solutions tailored for their specific conditions and realities.
Step Three: Implement the Plan.
Campus conditions and types of incidents may vary dramatically from district to district and campus to campus, so there is no consistent priority list of security enhancements that would be universally effective. However, there are specific enhancements that should always be considered as a high priority.
Controlling visitor access is the most important safety feature for students. Regardless of where a campus is located, limiting visitor access to the campus must always be a high priority. A security assessment can illustrate perimeter weaknesses and identify options to direct all visitors to a single point of entry that requires checking in before gaining access to students. Establishing control may be as simple as installing fencing and gates, or as invasive as relocating a remote administrative office to the front of the school by means of renovation or even a new addition.
A second universal high priority – and law in some states – is the installation of “Columbine locks” on doors throughout the campus. It’s important that rooms can be secured without exiting the space to lock the door. Although a retrofit can be expensive, these locks are considered a basic expectation to enhance safety and security.
In short, districts can launch a responsible, educated approach to security enhancements by hiring a design firm like DLR Group to complete a security assessment, identify the greatest daily threats, and prioritize solutions around real statistics. Equipped with these tools, any district administration and board can initiate responsible, cost effective security enhancements that would stand up to media scrutiny.