School Access Control Tips – Ten Ways to Improve School Access Control

During a series of interviews with the producer for the Today Show, I was asked to provide a list of high end school access control practices.  While truly effective school access control can be a bit more complicated than a bullet list of concepts, I thought the observations we have had from thousands of school security assessments we have assisted with might prove to be helpful to many readers. 

While it is critical to note that school access control concepts should be tailored to fit local conditions, the following concepts can often help to improve school access control.  Our analysts also hasten to point out that school access control is often only as reliable as the weakest link.  For example, superb front entryway design, technologies and staffing can become often easily be defeated if staff prop side doors open with rocks and other objects.  This aspect of school access control also makes it even more important to use a layered approach to school security. 

With these cautions in mind, the following practices can improve the reliability of access control in most K12 schools:

1.  A thoughtfully developed and properly communicated policy on school access control

2.  Keeping all exterior doors locked during the school day

3.  Providing quality staff development on school access control, visitor screening and visitor management practices

4.  Providing effective training in pattern matching and recognition techniques to help school employees quickly spot and react to potentially dangerous people

5.  100% wear of photo identification cards by all staff and time sensitive visitor badges for all visitors

6.  Remote buzzer access with camera and audio to screen visitors before they are admitted

7.  Security film on perimeter doors and windows

8.  Requiring visitors who staff do not know by full name on sight to show photo identification or be personally identified by another staff member before being admitted beyond the office area

9.  Any visitor who will be in proximity to students or who is going to be allowed to leave with a child must be checked against sexual predator database and outstanding court orders

10.  Teaching students to report any adult in the building who is now wearing a staff identification card or visitor badge

While this list is not intended to be a comprehensive approach to school access control, the concepts listed above can make it less likely that school access control will be defeated while increasing the chances that someone who is able to breach perimeter security is quickly detected and reported.


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.