Schools today face a wider range of security concerns than ever before. From petty acts of graffiti or vandalism to the ever present risk of mass shootings, administrators in New Jersey and beyond are constantly on the lookout for new and better ways to enhance school security while maintaining quality learning spaces for their students. Ultimately, the goal of any integrated security structure within a school should be to manage the area more effectively, keep students safe from harm, and allow everyone to feel secure while they learn and teach.
Security technology and basic building management now go hand in hand. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011-2012 school year 88% of schools locked entrances and monitored entrances to the building. Another 44% used locked and monitored gates to secure access to the grounds. Sixty-four percent relied upon security cameras to watch what was happening throughout the building. These changes allow administration and security staff to more efficiently monitor what happens during the day and come up with appropriate policies for their schools.
The right mix of security systems and freedom of movement can make a tremendous difference for the quality of education children receive while they are in school. These three areas are key to that success.
VISIBILITY AND MONITORING
Not surprisingly, if 90% of a building can be in direct line of sight to a teacher or other authority figure, the rule breaking will almost always happen in the other 10%. Using cameras to monitor behavior between classrooms helps reduce bullying, fighting, and vandalism by putting eyes in those areas, cutting down on incidents and bringing culprits to justice. Videotape recorders are still common, but vary significantly in quality. Fortunately, digital recording technology has come a long way and is quickly becoming the standard for school security.
In 2003-4, only two percent of public schools had students pass through metal detectors daily. That number has doubled by the 2011-12 school year, and the number of random metal detector sweeps have increased as well. Given the proliferation of gun violence across the country, this is hardly surprising. They are most commonly found in urban school settings and at the secondary level, and play a key role in preventing random school shootings.
ACCESS CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES
Many schools now favor electronic access control over the entrances and exits. While card swipes, fingerprints, or code boxes may cost more in the short run, they are more secure than regular keyed entries. They also offer flexibility for other staff members, who may need to come and go from front or side doors during the day. This allows even main doors to remain locked and makes it harder for intruders to enter the school.
The ultimate goal of all these security systems is to make the school feel as secure as possible for the students inside, while having the smallest effect on how “jail-like” the building becomes. It is an important balance of safety and freedom for students, teachers and administrators alike.