School administrators are facing security concerns the likes of which their predecessors would never have imagined. New threats have been rising toward school campuses as the years follow. Whether you are a modern-day principal or an administrator from years ago, day-to-day student safety is a high concern. Certainly, though, major events have shone a spotlight on school safety. In this day of education, principals have a lot on their plate and must be concerned with and planning for, both everyday incidents while also protecting the school population from major incidents.
The result? Administrators are being asked to do more with the same or less – funding that is. Not all districts have adjusted their budgets to accommodate the increased security needs of their school. Yet parents and communities are expecting and demanding that safety measures be implemented.
Some administrators have found ways around tight budgets by turning to staff and teacher training. Others have made changes in policies and procedures aimed to curb issues and prevent major incidents. These traditional methods, though, must incorporate current and shifting data if schools are to design effective policies, training, and procedures.
Even with access to the right information, these changes are not enough. Administrators need new school security solutions that provide powerful data and appropriate analysis, while also adding layers of security. Understanding direct, indirect, and other modern school security solutions will help administrators mitigate safety concerns.
Teachers, administrators, and staff can’t be everywhere, at all times. Monitoring solutions, like cameras, give eyes to staff without requiring in-person observation, while screening tools can expose dangers otherwise hidden.
Cameras can allow staff to see an area of the school that might be rarely traversed or is hard to see from common areas. Beyond that, they can record and back up a student’s statements or provide evidence to the authorities. They can also be a deterrent, both inside the school and on-campus exteriors, reducing and preventing vandalism or incidents on campus but outside the building.
These tools, however, can be seen as invasive if they aren’t used properly. For instance, it would be inappropriate to place cameras in a locker room. Even when used properly, many students and parents feel as if this type of monitoring is an invasion of privacy.
Beyond concerns around privacy, active cameras require staff to monitor the feeds and review recordings. To a school that is already understaffed, a security measure that requires more resources or adds to the responsibilities of overburdened staff may not be helpful.
Regardless of other issues, cameras represent a reactive measure, not a proactive one. They won’t signal that a fight is about to happen. Instead, they will let administrators see when one happens and identify who was involved.
Simple screening tools, like metal detectors, are certainly a preventative measure. They will help staff find and prevent weapons from entering the school at all.
However, metal detectors as a school security solution do not stop the entrance of contraband on their own. Security staff must be on hand for when an alert is sounded, and additional staff can be costly. They also create a bottleneck into the school, forcing all students to use a limited number of entrances.
For elementary and even middle schools, metal detectors can be intimidating and scary. Most importantly, they do not stop every threat from entering the building, only those that are made of metal and are picked up by the system. So this still leaves students and staff vulnerable to other threats.
Knowledge, of course, is power. And knowing when students, staff, and teachers enter and leave the building can empower a school’s security program. An identity management system offers this and much more.
Identity management systems that include smart identification cards can register and Monitor students and staff going to-and-from. It can also allow administrators to manage building access rights for certain cardholders.
Using an identity management system as part of your school security solution will have added benefits, such as feeding data into attendance systems. This contributes to the data needed to gain a full picture of student activities and whereabouts. This can be especially important when addressing attendance and concerns around absent students.
Fortunately, identity management solutions can be cost-effective solutions to your budgeting needs. The time required to effectively utilize identity management systems will be worth it in the long run for students and staff.
Administrators need to concern themselves with more than just threats from students already on campus. As we’ve seen, threats for major incidents have come from a variety of vectors, including school outsiders.
Threats to students from outsiders can mean more than just a shooting. No one wants to accidentally allow a registered sex offender on to a school campus because of ignorance.
A proper visitor management program as part of an overall management system will identify and flag visitors that may be potential threats, checking them against known offender lists. From an operational standpoint, these systems allow the school to keep track of new visitors and provide proactive steps to securing their campus from outside threats.
As valuable and necessary as visitor management is, on its own, it can have shortcomings. A Visitor Management System is just one piece of the whole pie.
Attendance and Absenteeism
Proactive school security solutions – also considered indirect solutions – are as important as more direct options like those discussed above. Proactive solutions offer the benefit of not only preventing issues but providing opportunities to intervene with at-risk students.
Two of the biggest areas of concern are attendance and absenteeism. This concern creates a whole set of different problems, they can signal problems long before they become significant issues. Chronic attendance issues can be an indicator of bullying or safety concerns. Attendance systems that provide clear and relevant data in real time give administrators the tools they need to intervene.
Attendance solutions wave a red flag for issues at the individual level, making support staff like counselors even more effective. They can address concerns at the individual level, with the information on concerns like tardiness, skipped classes, and absences at their fingertips.
Behavior Management & Intervention
Student behavioral problems can be a precursor to larger issues. Disruptive and distracting behavior can take up a teacher’s time and prevent other students from learning. Some acting out, especially in younger students, is to be expected. But chronic issues can signal that something bigger going on and can drastically affect a classroom climate.
It can be difficult to track behavioral issues and actions taken over time with a single teacher. The problem layers when a student is with multiple teachers over the course of a day or week. Who sent home a note to parents? Who addressed a situation in class, but didn’t report it? Without structured record keeping, administrators may have a hard time seeing a problem until it’s too late. Yet this kind of record keeping can be time-consuming and takes teachers away from their main task – education.
Behavioral management processes and tools can help with these issues. The data on a single student’s behavior becomes centralized, and all actions are noted. Administrators can review issues across a student’s entire career and analyze if problems are infrequent or show a pattern from data-driven reports. From there, action can be taken to get a student the help they need and into a program more suitable to their needs.
Of course, physical school security solutions shouldn’t be overlooked as part of a holistic safety program. But as with many solutions, physical protections cannot stand alone to prevent incidents. Building enhancements, like advanced locks and door monitors, can alert staff when entrances throughout the building have been accessed. They can also allow students and staff inside the school to exit, in case of a fire, but not allow entrance at those points.
These systems can be costly to implement. Installation should be scheduled either over school breaks or holidays, minimizing disruptions for students, but are rarely achieved within the desired timeframe. And it must be acknowledged that these preventative measures won’t help once a threat is already in the building.
Notification systems can help to aid a campus more quickly than traditional means of contacting authorities. With a push of a button, principals and other staff can alert first responders of an issue from anywhere in the building.
Related, classroom lockdown solutions can protect students in place, while help is summoned. Automatically triggered locks and even window covers prevent active threats from gaining access to students in classrooms. Both of these school security solutions can lessen the impact of a massive threat, but they are also reactive measures.
School security solutions continue to evolve, and each can be effective while also having shortcomings. Complete security for schools does not come from a single solution but must be designed to address issues proactively and reactively. Administrators should consider a combination of programs, processes, and tools that will provide them with the greatest level of security for their individual environments.
ScholarChip is an all-in-one, platform solution to help reduce school threats and address the important issues surrounding school safety. Data from students, faculty, and stakeholders are leveraged to manage school access, attendance, and behavior management through the platform tools to increase safety and promote the campus climate schools are looking for.
To learn more about ScholarChip and how your school can benefit from smart card technology, request a personal demo today!