Top 5 Best Security Practices Schools Should Consider for the 2022-2023 School Year | 3Sixty Integrated

Since 1970, there have been 1,924 incidents involving the discharge of a firearm on school property and 637 fatal incidents. Physical security on campus has always been a top concern for school leaders, but as the threats evolve, school administrators must always be looking for ways to improve their security practices. Security technology has never been more critical to help mitigate common school threats such as active shooters and vandalism. However, one of the biggest challenges school leaders face is ensuring that security systems are effective and reliable. 

Fortunately, schools can implement several best practices to address the wide range of potential safety and security threats. In this article, we will share five best security practices for schools to consider addressing digital and physical threats.

1. Adopting an integrated approach to school security

An integrated approach means ensuring that the school’s security systems are working together to ensure the safety of all students and staff in a non-distributive way. A well-integrated security framework includes various complementary systems ranging from total surveillance coverage to localized emergency response management.

In a nutshell, schools want to make sure that their physical security systems work effectively without being disruptive to the learning experience. In order to accomplish this, schools need reliable security systems in place that enable them to mitigate current security risks while being able to upgrade and expand as needed. This requires a framework that provides best practices for preventing violence through school policies, community support, and integrated physical security systems.

Value of an integrated system

Schools are adopting an integrated approach to school security because they see the value of integrated systems. Rather than using individual elements that may have compatibility issues, potentially disrupting the capability of the systems to mitigate threats, more and more school districts are opting for integrated security infrastructures, increasing the functionality of the systems as a whole and their ability to protect the students and staff.

best security practices

An integrated security infrastructure with the latest technology enhances a school’s: 

  • Remote monitoring capabilities
  • Access control 
  • Intrusion detection systems 

Understanding the security posture of your school and district is the first step in creating a robust security plan. A complete security assessment will identify any potential threats to your school, any security vulnerabilities, and the security infrastructure already in place. From there, you may evaluate threats, choose the appropriate security measures to counter them, and implement time-test security mitigation techniques like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

2. Implementing Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)

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The challenge for most schools in today’s threat landscape is figuring out the right balance between openness and security. While not as trending or technologically impressive, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a time-tested approach to safety that allows schools to leverage their building design, security systems, and personnel.  

CPTED complements physical security systems because it specifically focuses on the physical building designs, campus layout, and surrounding spaces. In a sense, CPTED enables schools to set the stage for their physical security systems to perform optimally. 

For example, access control is a top concern for most school officials. School administrators struggle with maintaining a balance between having a user-friendly, welcoming school climate and a secure facility from unwanted intruders. With standardized access control systems installed throughout the district, schools can easily streamline day-to-day operations and create a safer environment for student learning.  

The judicious placement of signage, entrances, exits, fencing, landscaping, and lighting are all aspects of CPTED. These elements promote what CPTED describes as “natural access control” and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of other security systems such as video surveillance and access control. 

CPTED in schools 

If you have ever toured a school and felt both welcomed and secured, you probably visited a school that has implemented CPTED principles. CPTED principles include: 

  • Natural Access Control: Natural access control guides how people enter and leave a space through the placement of entrances, exits, fences, landscaping, and lighting. It can reduce criminal behavior by limiting criminals’ access to possible targets.
  • Natural Surveillance: Natural surveillance guides the placement of physical features such as windows, lighting, and landscaping. These factors influence how much residents and passers-by can see. If they are afraid of being seen, potential offenders are less likely to try a crime. Similarly, we are more likely to feel safe when we can see and be seen.
  • Territorial Reinforcement: Physical design can create an area of territorial influence that can be perceived by and may deter potential offenders. This effect can be created via landscaping, pavement designs, gateway treatments, signs, and fences just to name a few. This principle can be adopted in the cybersecurity world by encouraging awareness and practice of the best security behavior.
  • Maintenance: A well-maintained school creates a sense of guardianship, helps deter criminals, and promotes a welcoming environment for the school’s community. 

3. Aligning physical security systems 

A physical security system is a collection of equipment and software that provides security and safety for your school. The equipment, technology, and design features that a school has in place to protect its campus are all interrelated within the physical security space and have costs and other implications that school administrators need to consider. 

First, maintaining physical security systems should be a top priority for every school district. Although many schools have continuously beefed up security to face various threats, recent events and tragedies demonstrate that more needs to be done.

School districts reevaluate security systems

The Bow and Dunbarton School District is a prime example of the need for schools to review and align their physical security systems. After an extensive audit of their cameras and access control systems, they discovered that most of their systems were out-of-date. As a result, the district applied for a New Hampshire state grant for school security that, if granted, could provide them with up to $100,000 per school to support their initiative.

In addition to installing new cameras, the district plans to replace all of their doors’ traditional locks with swipe card systems that will notify them who is entering the building and allow them to revoke a cardholder’s access instantly. These interconnected security systems, along with proper training, policies, and procedures, will strengthen their school’s security program. 

4. Connecting security systems with people

Traditionally, schools saw their physical security systems as equipment, technology, and tools designed to keep schools safe. While this view was accurate, it lacked a holistic element that exposed a school to evolving threats and vulnerabilities. 

Schools must include personnel, policies, and procedures as part of their physical security setup in this new digital age. The best security equipment, design features, and technology can not replace the importance of having structured policies, procedures, and training programs. 

The policies, procedures, and training developed around school physical security must tie together people and personnel with equipment, technology, and design choices to build a coherent system.

Smarter physical security 

While campuses need to be open and welcoming for everyone, the main element of physical security is being able to keep unwanted individuals off the premises. School access control systems make this possible by requiring faculty to provide credentials to enter the premisis and restricting access to certain areas. As a part of your school’s physical security strategy, access control systems provide the ability to:

  • Utilize schedules to lock exterior doors after hours automatically.
  • Limit access to specific entries such as staff offices, storage closets, computer labs, etc.
  • Remotely unlock the door, check access activity, and adjust permissions in real-time. 
  • Activate a school lockdown from personal devices such as phones or laptops.

5. Adopting a security framework 

Security frameworks have several components to guide school districts when developing their security policies and procedures. Security standards can be defined as a set of rules for systems or processes that provide consistency, accountability, and efficiency. Schools that develop and implement rigorous and practical standards will inevitably improve safety and cut costs.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) developed a framework to address a range of violence in schools. The framework has three major components: physical safety, school climate, and student behavior. In terms of physical security, the framework concludes that while security products such as access control and surveillance cameras are not the only answer to all of a school’s security concerns, they are useful tools when applied appropriately and used consistently. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) provides actionable, practical, and cost-efficient resources and tools for schools to enhance their safety and security postures. While there are no definitive standards for assisting schools to navigate the complexity of implementing a fully integrated security system CISA’s K-12 School Security Guide provides clear guidelines: 

  • Local education agencies should plan carefully as they prepare to implement or improve their physical security system.
  • Physical security measures are most effective at providing protection and mitigation benefits when they are installed to function alongside and in concert with other measures.
  • A layered approach to school physical security prevents single points of failure within the system.

Final thoughts

Each school is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to security. Neither environmental design nor cutting-edge technology will be enough to avoid all school violence. However, schools can lower the chance of significant security incidents and increase their ability to recover sustainably by developing a comprehensive security program.

At 3Sixty Integrated, our time-tested framework is here to help your school develop and implement sustainable security solutions. With over 20 years of experience, our team designs, installs, and maintains custom security solutions to keep your organization and assets safe and secure. Ready to get started? Contact us today to schedule a 30-meeting consultation or call us at (877) 374-9894.