The Necessity of Increasing Physical Security at Our Nation’s Schools
Get started on your Homeland Security Degree at American Military University.
Note: The opinions and comments stated in the following article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.
By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
The heartbreaking and tragic events last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, reminded us of the dangers that exist for our schools. In this case, an active shooter, Nikolas Cruz, gained access to school grounds and used his AR-15 semi-automatic weapon to claim the lives of 17 victims.
Schools nationwide have varying levels of security measures in place to prevent this type of tragedy. However, there is a definite need for a more proactive approach to protecting our nation’s schools.
Schools Need Better Access Controls to Improve Their Security
The most significant security hazard on school campuses is easy access into school grounds by someone who intends to cause harm. Protection ranges from no fencing or barriers to an inadequate fencing system that can be easily be penetrated by someone who seeks to injure or kill others. Indeed, some school campuses are open to everyone.
What is needed is a more comprehensive fencing system that prevents entry to every school property in all areas except at the entrances. This fencing system should be located as far from the main buildings as possible.
If someone were to get through the fence, students and staff could see the threat long before the assailant reaches school buildings and the main areas of the campus. They would have more time to take cover and put the school on lockdown.
The doors into the front office area should be the only way into a school. All students, staff and parents should be allowed to enter the school only through a main lobby. There should be two sets of doors adjacent to the parent pickup area and the bus loading areas.
Actively Monitored Camera Systems Could Be Installed in Schools
A high-quality CCTV security and surveillance system is needed throughout the school campus, especially in cafeterias, hallways, libraries and other areas where students gather. The CCTV cameras should clearly show what is happening in those public areas.
To be fully effective, the CCTV monitoring control system should be located in the front office, where it can be easily viewed by school staff. A member of the security or front office staff should be assigned to monitor the CCTV system. That same person should have direct access to the school’s alarm system and be able to quickly communicate with law enforcement.
A Badge System Would Easily Identify Students and Teachers
The horrific incident in Parkland, Florida, offers an important lesson – that all staff members and students should wear a school badge during school hours. In the Stoneman Douglas shooting, the gunman was able to flee school property by blending in with the students evacuating the school.
Requiring a badge can help faculty and staff quickly recognize anyone on campus who does not belong. In the case of an intruder who intends to inflict harm, the lack of a visible badge can help law enforcement quickly identify that person.
School Resource Officers Can Help Spot Troubled Students
A full-time school resource officer should be assigned to every school and be present whenever students are on campus. School resource officers, who are sworn police officers assigned to schools during school hours, are important because they serve as an additional layer of protection on campus.
School resource officers can get to know students and identify major changes in behavior that are an early warning about someone who might pose a threat. In addition, having a school resource officer physically on campus ensures that someone is immediately available in the case of an attack.
Parents, School Staff and Students Should Be Aware of the Warning Signs of Violence
In many school shootings, there are visible warning signs prior to an incident. These warning signs include students who:
- Behave in an erratic or antisocial manner
- Are depressed
- Are subjected to constant bullying
- Make threats on social media
- Are overly interested in gun-related videos or reading material
Parents have an important responsibility to monitor their children’s social media activity. They should also contact the police if they have concerns about their children’s behavior that could be dangerous to those children and others.
Likewise, faculty and students also have a responsibility to report to the police anything that hints of a threat. This includes comments on social media, in class, or among peers associated with a desire to do harm on campus.
We all need to take steps to increase security on school campuses. Without greater awareness and security, these tragic incidents will continue to happen.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been with the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security, contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has also received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently,
Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.