Tag Archive for: school security

Blog - Begging the question - Optional 3

The Edvocate recently posted an article, School Security: Just Smoke and Mirrors?, that begs the question, “Does school security really increase safety?”

As the mother of a child killed at Sandy Hook, and a national school safety advocate, I believe that whether it does or not, depends upon a few more considerations.

Hardware, technology, and programs alone cannot improve safety and security.

It’s more than installing cameras and door locks. These pieces of hardware and technology are examples of valuable security tools available today. Security is actually a practice that requires not only tools, but education, plans, procedures and human involvement. As school security consultant Paul Timm, PSP teaches, “…products and systems play a complementary role to the real star of the show: people driven-solutions.” (School Security, How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, 2015)

A locked front door combined with a buzz-in system can greatly restrict public access to vulnerable school occupants. But tools like this require a trained staff member on the other end to ensure that the door is securely locked, and to require identification and clearance of a visitor before granting access.

Just the same, cameras can serve as deterrents for negative behavior and even criminal activity in some communities, as Nancy La Vigne and her team found in a study with the Urban Institute. For many would-be perpetrators, a camera signals the risk of being caught or detected, either in the act, or in preparation; and it’s enough to change their behavior. In a recent article in Scientific American, Sander ban der Linden chronicles several scientific studies on the positive affect of merely perceived surveillance upon human behavior.

But cameras are undoubtedly more powerful with human involvement. A trained staff member to ensure the working order of cameras, monitor the live feed (or at least review it periodically), and report or address harmful or suspicious activity, can turn a camera into a tool of prevention rather than one of forensics.Blog-MicheleQuote-Option2

Programs, Staff Development, and Curricula can make all the difference.

Beyond hardware and technology are a wealth of tools in the form of safety programming, training, guidance and curricula. These tools support school safety and security through developing a mindset for safety and preparedness in the school community.

Just as hardware and tools require support to be effective, so do programs and curricula. The best reporting and threat assessment protocols cannot address harmful actions or circumstances without adults trained to monitor, respond, and provide intervention. Just like the best anti-bullying, social emotional learning, and emergency preparedness curricula carry little weight without support and reinforcement in the school community.

Below are a several school safety programs and curricula to explore.

School Safety Resources

For truly safer schools, we have to ask tough questions like the ones The Edvocate poses in order to find a way to work together toward thoughtful answers and use the tools available to us wisely. Otherwise, school security and safety really is just smoke, mirrors, and very expensive window dressing.

To view the chart above with hyperlinks to each resource click  this link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/7223104-school-safety-resources. For more information and resources on school safety and security, visit safeandsoundschools.org.

Michele Gay, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Safe and Sound Schools







The following is part of an interview conducted by high school student “Melanie” with Co-Founder and Executive Director, Michele Gay.  We’ll post subsequent questions and answers from the interview as part of our continuing School Safety Q & A Blog Series.  We are very proud of Melanie’s contribution to the national school safety conversation!

Melanie: On your [Safe and Sound] website, there are many ideas that can be implemented [in] schools to make them safer. What are your opinions on the [use] of bulletproof glass? Is this affordable for schools?

Michele:  The idea of protecting and reinforcing glass has been recommended by school safety experts for quite a while.  This simple measure can deter, delay, or completely prevent unauthorized entrance to school buildings through glass windows and doors. It’s in use today in banks, government buildings, and stores.

What’s most commonly used to protect glass windows and doors today is not “bullet proof glass” though. It’s something called “ballistic film” or “glazing,” an application to existing windows that’s designed to prevent shattering and reinforce integrity. Bullets or other small projectiles can still pass through treated windows; however, the glass can better withstand impact. The treated window is no longer an easy entry point, and broken glass pieces cannot become dangerous projectiles (as they might in an impact, explosion, or high wind event). Windows can be manufactured with this technology at the factory level now too, allowing schools to install already reinforced windows during building construction.


The cost of installing protective film, and the necessary anchoring system (to keep the glass attached to the window frame upon impact) runs an average of $15-25 per square foot. Not cheap–but not out of reach for most school communities willing to budget, fundraise, or work for bonds and grants. Many communities across the country are “phasing in” their installation, with focus on high priority areas first.  In addition to costs, proper installation of the film requires consideration of time and environmental factors too, so schools must plan ahead and do their homework for this project!

Another option for protecting glass windows and doors is something called a ballistic shield. Ballistic shields are aluminum, plates installed over glass to prevent access.  Although not “bullet proof,” these shields can withstand gunfire and impact,  preventing access and protecting from danger outside.  The shields are not transparent, like ballistic film, but may provide a more affordable and immediately available solution for schools.  According to Rob Couturier, who manufactures and installs ballistic shields, the shields cost $48-142 per window or door, and can be installed a day or less. Rob’s company customizes the plates with school names and logos “to make them part of the school” and provide openings for visual surveillance from inside the building.

As always, it is critically important for schools to include local police and fire officials when considering any safety enhancements.  Approaching school safety decisions as a team, represented by many stakeholders and perspectives, can build strong community support and engagement in school safety.

-Michele Gay, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Safe and Sound Schools

In the years since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, many have been working to improve school safety. School communities across the country are reexamining measures, plans, and procedures in place to better prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. As part of these efforts, schools nationwide are looking for tools that help.

Many are looking to the growing number of apps and software technologies now available to assist school emergency preparedness. It is not surprising that this trend has emerged, with smart phone sales exceeding 1.2 billion units in 2014 according to GFK. Companies like CrisisGo, Guardly Corp., Guard911, Punch Alert Technologies, Elerts, Livesafe, and NaviGate PreparedTM, among others, have developed software that school communities can use to better prepare for and communicate during emergencies.

Blog Graphic - Benefits and Features of Safety Apps

The technology integrated in these tools is not only supportive of the school community during a crisis, but also to first response teams. With interactive maps and floor plans available in many programs, first responders can quickly locate entry points and reduce the time it takes to respond to an emergency. As well, school communities can train staff and conduct drills using app technology. First responders can use apps to readily access emergency information, practice and refine procedures with students and staff, and reunify a school community following practice or true emergency.

Many school districts have started to use app technology for emergency preparedness and practice. Lake Forest Schools in Illinois is implementing an app to serve as a panic button for classroom teachers. Davies County Schools in Indiana now uses an app to alert first responders of emergencies, and may expand their app use to communicate internally as well. Royalton Schools in Minnesota is using an app to replace its 40-page crisis management plan.

One concern some community members have expressed with the new technology is protecting private and critical information like student attendance and schedules. In counties like Lake Forest, school board members have decided that the privacy risk is worth the security trade off. Several app companies now offer government level security protection of critical information with their technology.

As exciting as these innovations are, it is important to consider that tools and technology are only part of a comprehensive approach to school safety.  Successful school safety requires education, training, innovation, and collaboration to keep students and staff safe!




In my roles as a School Resource Officer and within several school safety organizations, I have the benefit of learning about many of the latest tools and technology in school safety. That said, I’m often asked for help sifting through all of them. My advice to those inquiring usually starts like this…

Don’t start shopping yet! Conduct a needs assessment to determine your safety and security priorities. Have a purpose and reason for spending money on tools and technology–if at all. And before making any changes or purchases, be sure that you have these basics of school safety and security covered: visitor management and security.

Visitor Management- When a visitor arrives at your school, do you really know who they are and why they are there? Many parents, visitors, and contractors are allowed access to schools by simply “signing in” at the front office or waving as they enter. With ever-increasing numbers of custody and court orders, as well as potential intruders and sex offenders to consider, busy front office staffs are increasingly utilizing visitor management systems and technologies to verify the identity and safety of visitors before allowing them entry. These systems allow staff to better screen visitors and verify identities with driver’s licenses and ID’s. Today, many schools are carefully re-examining their procedures and protocols surrounding visitor management and looking to tools like these to help.

Physical Security- In my last blog I posted some important questions about security to consider in your school. How do teachers secure classrooms? Do doors lock from the inside or require staff to open the door and lock it from the outside? Where do teachers keep keys during the school day?

Now I have another consideration for you: What if a staff member doesn’t have a key to the classroom for one reason or another?  Is there another way to secure the door? Having to fumble around with keys under stress can take extra time and focus in an emergency. Today, many schools are considering inexpensive devices and tools that can be permanently affixed to doors, enabling occupants to secure the room safely in seconds.  I am convinced that if the classrooms of Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech had been equipped this way, many lives may have been saved.

Three important considerations for tools like these are (1) rapid release capability for egress, (2) first responder accessibility in an emergency and (3) compliance with local fire and safety codes. Referring to your local fire and police departments when considering these tools is imperative.

Another important security consideration today is school windows. Glass windows and doors add sunlight and allow students and staff to see what’s going on outside. However, glass breaks easily, providing quick access to anyone able to break a window and step through it. In recent years, architects have begun reexamining school window design and products have been developed to strengthen existing school windows. Increasingly, schools are installing “films” and “laminates” that prevent window glass from shattering or breaking out, eliminating broken windows as a point of entry to the building.

Two important considerations here are (1) the inclusion of an anchoring system for any existing windows treated with these films and (2) that most of these films are designed to be “shatter-resistant,” not “bullet-proof.”

Other Products: With a national trend toward school safety and security, there are now tools and technologies for everything from social media monitoring of bullying and safety threats, to camera systems accessible by smart phone, to high wind and weather shelters for schools in areas prone to severe weather. Following a thoughtful safety assessment for your school, you will be able to determine if and where you might use some of this new technology.

Other Considerations: Be sure to look at several products of each type to find the best one for your needs; and know that many companies will offer competitive pricing to ensure that you get the right product for your needs. Do your homework on each product and know exactly what you want a particular tool or technology to do. This will help you ask the right questions and get the right tools.

Kevin Quinn currently serves as a School Resource Officer in Arizona, as well as Current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association (ASROA), and advisor to Safe and Sound. Kevin is the former president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). Contact Kevin at kquinn@asroa.org  and @klah316 on Twitter.