A Valuable Tool – Creating A Culture of School Safety

There are so many ways to make schools safer that are no-cost and low-cost approaches. Visitor sign in protocols, locking doors, supervising students effectively and many other valuable tools can dramatically reduce risk in schools. There are also a number of amazing technology solutions available to schools today. However, the catch is that all of these proven approaches require the support of school employees to work.

One of our analysts was able to defeat the security of a client district’s high school three days in a row in spite of the fact that this school incorporates some of the most recent and robust security systems in use by schools today, including:

  • An access control system that requires students to use a proximity card to enter the school.
  • Entry point walk through metal detection
  • Security X-ray screening of all purses, book bags and other items
  • A visitor management system that requires that a visitor’s driver’s license to be swiped to automatically check their identifying information against databases of known sexual predators, barred individuals and outstanding court orders.
  • Daytime alarm coverage for all other exterior doors
  • A robust security camera system that is staffed and monitored by a security officer
  • Nine hall monitors
  • One police officer

In spite of all of this security technology and personnel, Russell Bentley was able to gain access to the school interior without detection three days in a row. In addition to our security assessment, a real incident occurred due to the same issue when a group of gang members entered the school and attacked a student during school hours.

These gaps were possible because there was no buy-in for safety measures by staff at the school. There was no appreciation for a culture of safety and security among staff or leadership. This is one of the most challenging hurdles faced by school security directors, school district police chiefs and others tasked with maintaining safe and secure schools. But when you enter a school where all these things have come together, you immediately notice the difference.

Efforts to inform, educate and involve staff should be ongoing, and must be thoughtfully implemented to obtain meaningful results.

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.