Because of the ongoing problem with school violence, schools are accountable and liable for the safety of students, staff and faculty members on campus. Schools have been given latitude in carrying out preventive strategies to assist in deterring crime on school campuses.
Some security strategies include adult supervision, the hiring of school police officers, and the placement of cameras around the common areas of campus, to assist in the safety and deterrence of school violence. Additional safety measures include wearing identification badges and locking the campus.
A detailed plan
Park Vista High School’s Lake Worth, Fla., campus has a student population of 3,000 and a faculty and staff population of more than 200. The security and safety of the school’s environment is on the minds of the administrators and faculty members. The school has various security strategies to help minimize or deter unwanted crimes and behaviors on campus: Point-person strategies, check-in strategies, check-out strategies, and having a locked campus during school hours.
Security point. Park Vista High School appoints a resource officer, administrator or hall monitor to delegate entrance onto the school’s campus. The point person sits at the front gate supervising traffic on and off school grounds. He or she stops incoming vehicles, asking the driver his or her destination on campus. The point person then radios the front office to inform the receptionist of an incoming visitor. The point person also regulates outbound traffic. Many students drive to school and have privilege to leave campus early for other destinations. The point person’s duty is to check the student’s ID badges and monitor any non-approved students trying to leave campus.
Visitor check-in strategies. After the visitor drives past the point person, he or she must check in with the front office receptionist. Each visitor must have a picture ID available in order to enter the school’s campus. Once the picture ID is presented, the receptionist prints out a yellow visitor pass. Visitors are to keep the badges visible while on campus. After the badge is visible, the receptionist directs the visitor to the correct destination. Former Park Vista High School students must follow the same procedures when visiting the campus.
Student check-out strategies. Once the front office check-in procedures are complete, the visitor may proceed to his or her destination. If that destination is to pick up a student on campus, he or she must enter the student-services office. Once in the office, the visitor must request the assistance of the student receptionist. Again, the receptionist will request to see the visitor’s picture ID even though he or she is wearing a yellow badge. The receptionist matches the name to see if he or she is listed as “permissible” to sign students off campus by the profile screen. Once all these rules are abided by, the student is called out of class and the visitor awaits the student in the student-services office. Once the student arrives, he or she must sign out in a book prior to leaving campus. The same rules apply if the visitor is on campus for a meeting and after that meeting the visitor wants to take the student home prior to the end of the school day at 2:45 p.m.
Locked campus. Park Vista’s campus perimeter is fenced and locked Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Administrators and school police ride the perimeter of the fence daily looking for unusual activity, holes in the fence and look for any unlocked gates. Once the late bell rings at 7:30 a.m., the administration or school police lock the bus loop gate immediately, forcing all traffic to enter through the front gate and present themselves to the point person.
Students are not allowed to leave campus for lunch or for any other reasons. On most occasions, students are not allowed to approach their vehicle in the student lot without an escort or permission given by student services.
Administration and school police unlock the bus loop gate at 2 p.m., enabling outside parent pickup and buses to enter campus. Until that time, the gate is locked and secured. If a faculty member leaves campus with a bus, he or she must lock the gate immediately.
Parking Lot Patrol
During the school day, a staff member walks the student parking lot looking for students trying to skip class, or students with possession of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes on school grounds. The staff member also checks for student decals. The decals enable the student to park his or her car or truck on campus. If no decal is present or if the student is in possession of illegal paraphernalia, the staff member may place a boot on the tire. The boot disables the motion of the tire, keeping the car or truck steady in its place. At that time, the student must approach an administrator to have the boot taken off. At that point, administration may have several repercussions available to the student: detention, suspension (on or off campus) days depending on severity of the parking violation, and suspension of permissible parking on campus.
The staff member also walks the faculty and staff parking lot. Faculty and staff have a completely different parking decal. They have a decal sign that hangs from their rearview mirror. Visitors also may park on the faculty and staff member side of the parking lot. If a student is seen parking his or her car in the wrong lot, the student faces administrative punishment. Keeping the parking strategies in place lessens the risk of injury and vandalism.
Safety and security are on individual’s minds each time they walk on a school campus. Park Vista High School’s campus already has an abundant amount of students and staff and faculty members employed on campus that they are responsible for keeping safe. The school also is liable for each person that steps onto the campus, including visitors, and keeping them safe from crime. By using some informed security strategies, schools can help deter crime from entering any campus, whether it be a middle school, junior high school or elementary school.
Sobel is a certified high school teacher at Park Vista High School and holds a certification in school administration.