Preemption, Not Reaction


Districts must take steps to ward off threats toschool security, rather than responding to themonce they occur, when it may already be too late.

Ralph C. Jensen IF SCHOOL TRAGEDIES can teach us one thing, it's that students arevulnerable and deserve the best protection possible. Districts must realize thatschool violence can happen anywhere at any time. From the country's smallest ruraldistricts to the overflowing campuses in big cities—and even in kindergarten classroomsand elementary schools—preparations must be taken.

Threats can come in many forms. While older students face a greater risk of violence from classmates, younger children must be protected against outside threats, such as abduction. Though there are a number of ways safety can be achieved, districts' top priority should always be preemptive, rather than reactive, security.

Geoffrey H. FletcherA preemptive approach to security enables districts to keep unwanted and unfamiliar visitors at bay, while keeping an eye on what goes on within each school. For example, by using security cameras in hallways and at entrances, officials can detect and record crime and violence as they at the same time make their presence known to would-be offenders.

Many districts also have begun controlling access to their schools by locking as many gates as possible, and then installing card readers or surveillance cameras at the remaining entrances. By restricting access, security officials gain control in otherwise chaotic, often volatile situations.

As you'll find in these pages and on our bonus online coverage at THE Journal, many districts are taking very seriously their responsibility to make their schools safe and secure. But too many aren't. As Dave Nagel, T.H.E.'s web editor, observes, "Districts around the country, from urban centers to rural communities, are focusing their security efforts in large part on data security— in particular, in regulating and monitoring internet usage and keeping students' computer screens within view of adults. But schools may be neglecting the physical side of security."

Nagel bases this observation on the K-12 School Safety Index 2007, a benchmark study conducted by Quality Education Data and released by CDW-G. Through a series of questions that produce a score intended to indicate emergency preparedness, schools on average showed a much higher level of data security than physical security.

States are getting into the act in a very positive way. The state of Washington recently received the Innovations in Homeland Security award for creating a program to pull together photos, maps, and exit plans for each of its schools. This information has been provided to emergency responders to use during a disaster or crisis. This is the kind of positive action that state and local government can take to make our schools safer.

-Ralph C. Jensen, associate publisher/editor, Security Products
-Geoffrey H. Fletcher, editorial director, T.H.E. Journal

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.