To provide the security necessary for education institutions to create a safe learning environment, school administrators must take steps to keep people who don’t belong from getting inside their facilities. At the same time, they can’t put security measures into place that put obstacles in the path of students and staff that need to get out of the building quickly.
The goal should be restricting entry points to a school facility—ideally, one main entrance that can be monitored by staff members or video surveillance—and taking steps to prevent exits from becoming unauthorized entry points.
For new school construction, designs should take into account up-to-date security strategies when choosing the locations of entrances and exits. The Los Angeles Unified District’s School Design Guide recommends these strategies for doors in education facilities:
•Do not locate exterior doors in recesses or alcoves that would provide cover for an intruder trying to enter.
•All exterior doors should be illuminated with security lighting.
•Provide rain-protection overhangs for unprotected exterior doors.
•Use security grilles to protect glass on exterior doors from vandalism. Laminated glass is not sufficient protection, the guide states.
Once a school has effective door hardware and security technology in place, administrators need to establish ways to make sure the systems are allowed to work properly.
"Safe and orderly entry and exit procedures are critical to establishing and maintaining a safe, secure and supportive school environment," says the New York City Department of Education’s "Best Practices Standards For Creating and Sustaining a Safe and Supportive School."
It recommends that some staff members be present at a school’s designated entrances and exits when students are arriving and departing.
The lion’s share of traffic at entrances and exits comes at the beginning and end of the students’ day, but schools also need to be vigilant about parents, workers and other visitors who seek access to a campus throughout the day. The New York City guide says schools should adopt these visitor procedures:
•Signs should be posted at a school’s main entrance to inform visitors that they must sign in and show photo identification.
•If a parent does not have an acceptable photo ID, a designated staff member should escort the parent to where he or she is visiting, and after the meeting, escort the parent out of the building.
•All visitors must enter through a designated entrance; if the school has scanning devices installed, the visitors undergo scanning. Visitors are given a pass to wear, and the school’s front desk security summons an escort to take the visitor to his or her destination. When visitors are ready to depart, an escort returns them to the security desk. Visitors return their passes and sign out.
The protection that security personnel provide can be supplemented with technology, or in the case of schools that can’t afford full-time security officers, technology can cover gaps in protection.
Access-control systems come in various forms. Those authorized to enter a school can be provided with programmed cards that are swept through or displayed close to a reader, which unlocks an entry door. Some systems use biometric readers or keypads.
To deter people from trying to enter through doors that are meant only for exiting, the door hardware should be installed so that the doors don’t have exterior knobs or handles, and can’t be pried open.
Schools where the main-office personnel do not have adequate sight lines to monitor entry points often use video cameras and intercoms to bolster security.
Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].