Many school districts and non-public schools are under pressure from parents to conduct school security audits before the coming school year. While this is understandable, conducting school security audits when school is not in session is significantly less effective and can result in increased exposure to civil liability.
Safe Havens analysts have assisted with various types of school security audits for more than 5,000 school facilities across the United States. We have consistently found that school security audits conducted when schools are vacant reveal far fewer safety, security and emergency concerns and do not represent an accurate assessment.
While there are instances where school security audits must be conducted during the summer months, the approach should be avoided when possible. While many people are focused on physical features of schools, numerous tragedies have shown that the effectiveness of school security, safety and emergency preparedness measures are heavily influenced by what staff and students do during the school day.
For example, numerous school districts have settled or lost major lawsuits after implementation of some of the most intensive physical security technologies failed to prevent shootings and other major incidents during the school day. Typically, these cases involve gaps in security that are created by human practices that cannot be detected when school is not in session. For example, one large school district settled a lawsuit that was filed after a student was shot and killed by another student who was dangerously mentally ill. During the litigation, it was revealed that the district had been awarded more than $40 million in federal grant money to improve school security and emergency preparedness. The district had invested heavily in school security technology but had not addressed the issues that led to the shooting. For example, student supervision at the school was a significant factor in the shooting as both students involved were out of class for approximately two hours while the killer attempted to locate and shoot the victim.
It is extremely common to see costly security technology improvements in schools fail because they have been made without adequately assessing how students, staff and visitors interact.