Schools in New Jersey should bolster security on their campuses by upgrading their facilities, adding equipment and programs, and establishing a greater police presence.
The numerous recommendations were included in a report issued by the New Jersey School Security Task Force. The task force was formed in 2013, in the aftermath of the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 students and six adults.
Here are some of the report's many school security recommendations:
- A building site should be chosen with adequate space to accommodate bus and vehicular traffic separately and permit additional space for evacuation of occupants.
- Bus drop-off/pick-up areas should be separated from other vehicular drop-off/pick-up areas. Pedestrian routes should be separated from vehicular routes, and crossing of the two should be minimized.
- The number of interior doors should be kept to a minimum. Exterior door hardware should be eliminated from doors that are intended only as emergency exits.
- New schools should be designed with a single public entrance to be used during the school day. The entrance should be equipped with a security vestibule with interior doors that must be released by school security or other staff. Schools should consider installing bullet-resistant glazing in the interior vestibule doors and windows.
- A school’s entrances should have a uniform numbering system to help emergency responders find particular areas. Interior door locks on spaces should have a keyless locking mechanism.
- New buildings should have access-control systems with the ability to lock and unlock all access doors.
- Schools should be able to separate and secure areas intended for public from all other areas.
- Classroom doors and all other spaces that could be used as safe havens during lockdowns should not have sidelights.
- Interior doors and windows in spaces that could be used as safe havens should be equipped with blinds, shades or similar devices.
- Roof hatches and other gateways to areas of the school building that are off-limits to teachers, students, and other unauthorized personnel should be locked and alarmed.
- Schools should avoid or eliminate courtyards. Schools that do have courtyards should make sure that they do not compromise the security of the school.
- School sites should have fencing and signs to delineate school property, and signs should be placed in multiple locations that clearly dictate that no trespassing is permitted and that visitors must register at the school’s main office.
- A clear line of site from the school to the immediate surroundings should be established; trees and shrubs should be placed away from the building to remove hiding places and the ability to gain access to the roof.
- Driveways should allow only one-way traffic and lead to a clearly marked visitor parking area. Bollards should be placed along the roadway or curb line in front of a school to prevent vehicles from gaining access to exterior walls, windows and doors.
- A school’s main entrance should be clearly marked and easily visible and recognizable.
- Enclosures for utilities outside the school building should be situated away from the building to ensure that they do not provide roof access.
- Adequate and properly maintained lighting should be provided around the building and parking lots.
- Districts should adopt an identification system in which all staff must display clearly visible ID cards while school is in session.
- Students also should be required to have clearly visible ID cards; those cards should be tied to other functions (e.g., meals, library) to motivate students to have their IDs at all times.
- A parking decal or tag system should be maintained for all staff and students who park on campus in order to easily identify unauthorized vehicles on the property.
- Visitors to a school should be screened and issued visitor passes. The screening should include a check of the sex offender registry.
- Districts should provide two-way radios, with a dedicated channel separate from other police frequencies, so that all school security personnel can communicate directly with other emergency responders.
- Districts also should ensure that teachers and staff have means (e.g., cell phones, portable radios, intercoms) to communicate with school administration while classes are in sessions.
- Schools should be required to establish procedures for establishing multiple platforms for notifying stakeholders about a school emergency.
- Individual districts should decide whether it is necessary to employ screening systems at school entrances. Schools should use surveillance cameras to boost facility security. Visible, exterior cameras act as deterrents.
- The task force recommends that school districts work with law enforcement agencies to develop strategies to place school resource officers in all school buildings.
- Schools should work with law enforcement agencies to provide a police presence in and around school grounds at start and dismissal times and to have officers patrol schools as part of their regularly scheduled patrols.
- Schools should invite police personnel with expertise in gang, drug awareness, and resistance strategies, bullying, cyber safety, and school violence, to take part in educational programs for students, staff, and parents.
- Security personnel should be in uniform to act as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers.
- The state should provide, at least annually, training and guidance to all school staff and students on their roles and responsibilities before, during, and after emergencies.
- Districts should take steps to promote a positive school climate and foster ongoing communication among staff and students. They should establish behavioral threat assessment teams to identify potential at-risk students and to provide resources to prevent potential violent incidents.
- Establish a School Safety Specialist Academy “as a central repository for best practices, training standards, and compliance oversight."
- Establish a school safety specialist certification program; and requiring school districts to designate a school safety specialist.