Security on a Budget

Schools and universities are battling a budget environment that continues to chalk up casualties — and no area is being spared.

Teachers and staff are being laid off, maintenance and operations budgets are being cut to dangerous levels, and programs and services are being eliminated. At the same time, record enrollments, escalating facilities needs, and new state and federal mandates are demanding dollars that are getting more difficult to find.

And what about security? One can't help but wonder how administrators are balancing the need for an increased level of safety for students, staff and property with a dwindling pool of dollars.

This month's cover story (p. 20) explores this dilemma, and looks at how schools and universities are addressing security in tight budgetary times.

The focus on school security has never been greater. However, many education institutions are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with a growing list of security challenges.

Case in point: education institutions' response to the Homeland Security Advisory System. A recent survey by the National Association of School Resource Officers states more than half of school police officers don't have formal guidelines to follow when the advisory system's color alert is raised. In addition, almost 40 percent of officers say school-safety funding — which would help schools prepare for potential terrorist attacks — is decreasing, even though 90 percent say schools are soft targets for terrorism.

These are troubling findings, and should be cause for concern.

The importance of having a security master plan is critical, and schools and universities must be prepared for anything. Among those institutions that have guidelines in place to address a heightened security alert, most include tightening access to campus, preparing students and staff to be more alert, monitoring areas surrounding the campus, and cancelling outside trips and activities. Also, it is vital for school officials to work closely with local and state emergency-management agencies.

But funding is needed not only to implement plans and procedures, but also to train staff and teachers on how to respond to terrorism.

Unfortunately, in these tough budgetary times, it is a goal that has proven to be especially difficult to accomplish — but one that is more important now than ever before.


SCORECARD 51

Percentage of school police officers that say there are no formal guidelines in their school when a change occurs in the Homeland Security Advisory's color-alert system.

35

Percentage of school police officers that say their school has guidelines when a change in the federal color-alert system occurs.

14

Percentage of school police officers that don't know if there are formal guidelines in their school in response to the federal color-alert system.

76

Percentage of school police officers that say their school districts are not prepared for a terrorist attack.

87

Percentage of school police officers that believe school crime is underreported.

71

Percentage of school police officers that say aggressive behavior in elementary schools is up over the past five years.

Source: National Association of School Resource Officers, 2003 survey

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