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Making K-12 School Sites Safer and More Secure by Design

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Making K-12 School Sites Safer and More Secure by Design. Safer Schools by Design. What security requirements does the Arizona Department of Education currently have?.

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safer schools by design
Safer Schools by Design

What security requirements does the Arizona Department of Education currently have?

  • The State Legislature requires compliance with ARS 15-341(A) 34, "Arizona School Emergency Response Plan, Minimum Requirements".
  • Neither the minimum requirements of the Response Plan or recommended resources on ADOE's web site currently recommend physical security systems, unless a site specific security evaluation determines that such measures are advisable.
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Safer Schools by Design

SFB staff conducted a literature search on school security. Five of the most comprehensive sources are cited below:

  • "Safe Schools Facilities Planner - Health and Life Safety, School Climate and Order", North Carolina Board of Education
  • "Safety by Design", Fayette County Public School System, Kentucky
  • "Designing Safe Schools", Randall Atlas PhD, Atlas Safety and Security Design, Inc.
  • "Florida Safe School Design Guidelines", Florida Department of Education
  • "Safe Schools Guide-Selected Strategies and resources", Oklahoma State Department of Education
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Safer Schools by Design

Two key findings with regard to physical security systems:

Finding number one:

None of the reviewed literature recommended particular security devices. In fact, several studies suggested that a "cottage industry" has developed around recommending and selling such devices to school administrators, regardless of whether there is any demonstrated need.

safer schools by design3
Safer Schools by Design

Finding number two:

There was general agreement that securing a school involves considering the school location, community variables, grades served, campus layout, and policies and procedures that are in place.

School safety relates to “school climate”. The climate of a school involves how students relate to each other and to teachers and school staff.

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Safer Schools by Design

Security System Review:

  • Entry-control approaches:(limited entry/exit)
    • Security guard(s)
    • Personnel operating a wand or metal detection station
    • Badge/ID card reader
    • PIN number on a keypad
    • Biometrics
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Safer Schools by Design

Security System Review:

  • Building Entry Alarm Systems:
  • The system detects intruders after hours in controlled or hidden areas.
  • It can be used to signal emergency personnel when immediate help is required.
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Safer Schools by Design

Security System Review:

  • Duress Alarm Systems:
  • Simple panic button mounted in classroom.
  • Pager like device with panic button worn by school staff. Alarm signal sent to alarm console. Code identifies teacher but not the specific location of the teacher.
  • Same as previous except alarm signal indicates identity and locates and tracks the device.
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Safer Schools by Design

Security System Review:

  • Camera Systems:
  • Greatest strength lies in identifying suspects after the fact.
  • Catches criminal behavior as it occurs only when continuously monitored.
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Safer Schools by Design

Site Design Best Practice Recommendations

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • Locate site entry points in high visibility areas where they can be easily observed and monitored by school personnel.
  • Use fencing to limit the number of entry/exit points onto school grounds.
  • Utilize fencing that does not permit footholds:
    • (8-foot chain link fence with small mesh (1-inch to 1-1/2 inch) is considerably less expensive than wrought iron and provides an excellent barrier. Unlike a 6-foot chain link fence, it is difficult to pull up on the fence and the small mesh doesn't allow toeholds.)

Enclosing a campus with fencing is more to keep outsiders out than to keep insiders in. No fence can keep out someone determined to enter the campus.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • At a minimum, provide adequate lighting for auto parking areas, bus loading/unloading zones, pick-up and drop-off areas, bicycle parking areas, and walkways leading to building entrances.
  • Provide exterior vandal proof lighting at building entrances and along glassed areas of the building.
  • Restrict access to parking to a limited number of controlled entrances.
  • Locate visitor parking adjacent to main entry and administration.
  • Close unsupervised entrances during low-use times.

School sites with well designed, well lighted parking lots and vehicular routes are easier to manage and keep students and staff safer.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • Shrubs, trees and landscape features should not impede visual surveillance on the school site.
  • Design landscaping and tree placement to eliminate roof access.
  • Design covered walkways to eliminate opportunities for gaining access to roofs, windows or other upper level areas.
  • Consider applying slippery finishes or coatings to columns.

Exterior design features can be configured to enhance site safety.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

Exterior building design elements can be arranged to provide natural surveillance and enhance security.

  • Design walls and architectural features that do not allow footholds or handholds. Columns and other supports should discourage climbing by using smooth building materials and finishes.
  • Avoid putting unnecessary niches in exterior walls that can create hiding places.
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Safer Schools by Design

Building Design Best Practice Recommendations

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

The ideal main building entry should be located at the front of the school near the administrative areas. When entering the school, students need to feel safe within a protective learning environment.

  • Locate site entry points in high visibility areas where they can be easily observed and monitored by school personnel.
  • Consider vestibules at main entry doors where visitors can be channeled into the main office area to increase security.
  • Minimize the number of unmonitored entrances into the building(s). Secure secondary entries.
  • Always locate administration areas adjacent to main entries and lobby.
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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • From the main entrance there should be unobstructed sight lines through the library for easy observation. Low stacks placed parallel to the circulation desk aid in visual control.
  • Main access points to commons areas should have unobstructed surveillance.
  • In locker rooms, locate staff offices with windows near the main entrance.
  • To the greatest extent possible, minimize hiding places and blind corners in any area of the school.

Open sight lines allow for natural surveillance by both students and staff.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • Design classroom doors with locksets that allow door to be locked from either side and always opened from inside.
  • Design doors with view panels or side lights to increase visibility.
  • Design classroom windows to allow for quick surveillance of the campus by staff and students during the course of their normal activities.

An important concept of classroom design is that in an emergency situation, classrooms must be able to be locked down quickly.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • Enclose area under interior stairways.
  • Avoid enclosed exterior stairwells when possible.
  • Exterior stairs, balconies, ramps and upper level corridors should have open or see-through handrails and guardrails.

Open stairwells make it easier to keep an eye on students.

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Safer Schools by Design

Best Practice Recommendations:

  • Eliminate double door vestibules entrances in toilet rooms. Privacy screen partitions rather than doors allows better acoustical surveillance while preserving privacy.
  • Consider locating sinks outside of the toilet room for better visual surveillance.
  • Waterless urinals are preferable.

Certain design strategies can help mitigate safety and security problems in toilet areas.

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Safer Schools by Design

  • Before the attack:
    • No physical security requirements other than building locks. Visitors were asked to sign-in at school offices, but it generally wasn't enforced.
  • After the attack: 
    • A card key entry system for staff. Students wear ID tags at all times.
    • Full time monitor at the main entry and the student entry.
    • Banned long coats because that is what shooters wore.
    • No metal detectors. Local law enforcement and the CO AG indicated detectors may not prevent attacks.

Security after the Columbine High School Attack

Background: Jeffco has 85,000 students at 148 school sites. Columbine HS had 1,945 students at the time of the attack.

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Safer Schools by Design

  • Card readers and video cameras at HS and MS buildings.
  • Classroom door hardware lockable from the inside with any teacher’s key.
  • Main entry vestibules adjacent to the main office and separated by a door. Inside vestibule doors locked when school starts. Visitors must go through reception area to check in.

Seven Years Later, the district is currently installing:

Under evaluation:

  • Electronic lock at reception area with a door buzzer for entry. (District is concerned about lack of a "welcoming" feeling that it believes schools should convey.)
  • PA systems with a microphone in all classrooms that can be monitored without a teacher having to physically activate it.
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Non-Physical Measures Jeffco has implemented:

Safer Schools by Design

A district-wide safety plan and crisis response plan.

Regular emergency practice drills and training at schools.

An emergency hotline number for parents.

Area on its web site for periodic updates during a crisis.

Increased visible security presence at schools.

Close working relationship with law enforcement agencies.

Programs to address student bullying and violence.

Mediation programs and counseling for students with anger and conflict issues.