School Security and School Safety

School security is a hot topic, and not without cause. While statistically rare, violence at schools against students or faculty is a reality we live with. And without school safety resources training and a general preparedness mindset, it likely won’t get better. Enhancing school safety is a concern for most parents and teachers, but many don’t seem to know how best to go about it.

There are professional resources and services available, so don’t consider this a school security guide but rather a first step for concerned individuals to refine their concerns—perhaps for later discussions with children, faculty, and districts. (Please let us know in the comments if you found this useful, or think we missed something regarding school security, health, and safety.)

Enhancing school safety

Most facilities that educate children today have some form of internal school security protocols. School Resource Officers (SROs) are often the most visible aspect of this but are far from the only effective response to the threat of violence against students or others on campus. School security is similar to dealing with a potential threat at any other large building: The better one can secure it passively, the less likely an active threat will need to be addressed. Student identification, building access control, channeling visitors to one adequately staffed location, and the physical presence of an SRO or other physical security personnel are common recommendations of a thorough threat assessment. If there are specific concerns beyond general school security, like a student possessing drugs or weapons, then those must be addressed as well.

Training both staff and emergency services personnel is paramount. Should a school need law enforcement, both the safety and efficacy of that training will be enhanced when everyone knows where to go, what to do and what others will be doing. Communication and preparedness are keystones of school safety. The more schools focus their security around training their security plan and communicating among students, staff and security resources (like SROs or police), the more rapid and effective they should be—and the less likely it should be that anyone will have to learn what to do in the moment of an actual violent situation.

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Beyond the basics, some things that may not seem obvious, like signage, can also be important. Posted fire exits, routes to them, brief explanations of security protocols, etc. can enhance overall school safety if regular training is not feasible for staff and students. Also consider programs that may require security or other threat assessment before or after school. School breakfast programs, sports assemblies or other special events will likely require something beyond the standard school security assessment, as a tool that works well in one situation may not work at all in another. For instance, controlling access to an outdoor event may require adapting an existing policy to a new environment.

You can learn how your child’s school security plan compares to federal guidelines and best practices at If you find that your school’s security is not meeting minimum standards, consider letting them know what’s recommended by the government, which may lend your argument more weight.

Not a school security guide, but the start of a conversation

Again, this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing security policy, but rather a baseline on what is necessary to achieve effective security in a school environment. After you learn about every tool, policy and procedure we’ve discussed—and whether it’s part of your child’s school safety plan—you can access the government’s best practices and have an informed conversation with school administrators. School safety is the duty of the school, but it’s up to everyone to understand and learn best practices and to ensure that the school’s security is being taken seriously.

School safety is often a difficult subject and yet a necessary one. Bringing up safety issues and methods of addressing them can only help improve the safety of schools. The more parents and educators do so, the faster and better a school’s safety procedures will likely be. It’s your right to ask what’s being done to protect your child, as well as how your school can improve on that front—you will always be the best advocate for the safety and security of your child. Most schools are doing the best they can with the resources they have, so presenting your concerns as an offer to help may be the most effective approach. Perhaps a GoFundMe or other fundraiser to purchase cameras or other school safety equipment and training would motivate school administration faculty and parents to help. (Please let us know what you think or what has worked for you in the comments.)

School Security FAQ’s

The number one thing schools can do to be more secure is to actively control access to the building. Passive preventative security measures including doors that only open from the inside without a key, cameras, effective lighting, proper visitor processing protocols are the primary defense a school has. Police are a reactive force that can be effective after an event. Although these measures are typically the least costly, they require staff training and adherence. Adequate school safety training and physical security won’t be effective if someone props a door open or allows strangers to sneak in, for example. That’s why training on everyday as well as emergency procedures is key.

Passive security (mentioned above) is the simplest and cheapest method and can serve as a primary defense for schools without constant armed security. School Resource Officers and a nearby police reaction force would be the next step, though they require specific training related to building layout policies as well as staff to be effective.

Whether it’s a primary school, community college or a university, tragic events can happen anywhere. Having a combination of active and passive security measures in place can help prevent, manage and resolve both criminal and noncriminal school safety issues quickly and effectively.


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