K–12 Security

School Safety and Security Guidance Updated

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has released an updated edition of its safety and security guidelines for K-12 schools. The fourth edition of this publication has updated the guidelines to fit within a simplified structure of multiple tiers and layers, added best practices for districts, expanded coverage of policies and procedures and covered new topics, including school transportation systems, cybersecurity and network infrastructure and architecture.

The purpose of the report is to supply anybody who's interested with guidance for implementing "a layered and tiered approach to securing and enhancing the safety of school environments." PASS, founded in 2014, consists of a group of education, law enforcement and industry people who work together to develop information and tools that will enhance school safety.

Most of the guidelines focus on physical security and "life safety" and avoid specific product recommendations. They also don't reach beyond policy or technology considerations into the realms of mental health, behavioral threat assessment, deployment of public safety personnel or rules on firearms.

The layered approach recommended by the organization is intended to set up successive obstacles that will "deter, detect or delay adversarial behaviors." The five layers begin at the district, move onto the property perimeter, the parking lot, the building and, finally, the classroom.

As an example, the most comprehensive approach for securing the "interior perimeter" — those classrooms — the guide explained, was to include these technologies:

  • A public address system;
  • The addition of E-911 to the phone system;
  • A two-way intercom system with call buttons;
  • A duress button system for offices and classrooms;
  • And in-building emergency communication system;
  • A distributed antenna system;
  • Mass notification tied to a district-wide system;
  • Building-wide communication via outside calls; and
  • Use of mobile applications and social media.

The more of these there are, the greater the level of security.

The report offered a roadmap for formulating a security management plan, which begins with assembly of a team, consisting of a security director (if one exists), a school administrator, a security integrator or consultant, an IT director and representatives from local first responder agencies. Then it's onto tackling risk assessment, to understand the risks associated with each building on campus, and includes development of a plan and budget for improving the security. From there, the team is charged with creating a building assessment that uses a PASS-developed checklist to address the best practices. Then it's time to create a "detailed document" for the plan, which includes budget.

"The safety and security challenges schools face today are more multifaceted and complex than ever before, and protecting students and staff requires a comprehensive approach to these challenges," said Guy Grace, PASS chairman and director of security and emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools, in a statement. "We are proud to build on the PASS guidelines, which present the most comprehensive information available on best practices for securing school facilities, an essential component supporting all-hazards approaches to school safety."

The guidelines are available with registration through the PASS website. The same registration gives access to the "school safety and security checklist" as well.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.