In the midst of an ongoing conversation about school safety, some schools have implemented innovative and, at times, extreme security measures. NBC reported on a high school in Michigan reconstructed their building with curved hallways and other physical features to impede the efforts of a shooter. The LA Times wrote about schools and other institutions utilizing Artificial Intelligence to identify suspicious individuals and behaviors on their security cameras. The Washington Post detailed an Ohio school district that decided to arm teachers.
Innovative ideas can help to drive progress in school security, but readers should be wary of a catch-all solution. Rather, schools should think of school security as a quilt that will not be complete until the different pieces are tightly sewed together. Safety and security are best achieved when you have a number of strategies, all integrated to support and complement one another.
Key pieces of the overarching plan should include physical building features, comprehensive policies, training for teachers, staff and students, leadership to enforce plans and policies, and a culture that values safety & security.
An expensive camera and lock system lose value if staff aren’t properly trained and motivated to vet visitors at the door. A system that encourages community members to anonymously report suspicious behavior is only effective if there is a system in place for responding to reports. Even the most well-planned lockdown procedures are worthless if schools don’t host drills to help students feel comfortable and confident with the process.
No piece of the “quilt,” or process, is too small to be overlooked. By enacting an integrated security plan, your school will be all the stronger. And perhaps it is possible to avoid some of the more extreme “single” solutions when you have all of the pieces working together to create one strong security system.