Five Preliminary Tips for Improving American School Security

February 28, 2018 Updated: March 1, 2018

The world is watching America’s response to the ongoing school violence crisis.

There are challenges, controversies, and confusions, but there are also remedies, countermeasures, and prevention principles.

As a response to the issues, here are five preliminary tips to improve school security that deserves attention, collaboration, and implementation.

Improving School Security

  1. Security Vulnerability Assessment: The security vulnerability assessment (SVA) identifies and evaluates the vulnerabilities and strengths of a school and/or district. The SVA is conducted to develop crisis countermeasures. It must be developed on the principles of leadership, vigilance, and collaboration. The primary concern of an SVA is the protection of lives and should be conducted by a reputable board certified protection professional (CPP).

Each school has its own complexion and the SVA is essential to properly diagnosis specific, effective, and corrective measures for security.

The SVA includes sound risk management principles of mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. The assessment includes recommendations on personnel security, physical security, emergency practices, informational security, and all facets of training.

A professional board certified SVA also includes:

  • Existing plan identification and review
  • Interviews of the entire school community including administrators, teachers, counselors, psychologists, cafeteria workers, coaches, bus drivers, students, parents, law enforcement, first responders, janitorial staff, and vendors.
  • Interviews should also include the superintendent and board of education representation
  • Analysis of the pedagogy/culture of the school—repressive, lax, or preventative
  • Evaluation of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles
  • Review of arrival, exchanges, dismissal, cafeteria assemblies, and extracurricular activities
  • Security policy and procedure review
  • Safety and security checklists
  • Access management issues: ID cards, metal detectors, barrier arms, bollards
  • Visitor/contractor/delivery analysis
  • Security personnel
  • Law enforcement and First Responder partnerships
  • Event venue security analysis
  • Communication systems for emergencies
  • Extracurricular activities security
  • Walkthroughs
  • Luminosity studies
  • Active shooter, fire drills, evacuations, lockdown, sheltering in place, bomb threat drill reviews
  • Character education culture analysis
  • Early warning signs
  • Threat assessment/crisis management team analysis
  • Review of school culture—character, respect, and diversity
  • Bullying prevention review
  • School Resource Officer (SRO) /Contract or In-House Security Personnel—training, certification, interviews
  1. School resource officers (SRO’s): one of the most important school violence prevention, character education, and community policing initiatives. But to be most effective, the SRO program demands the most qualified, trained, certified, and dedicated police professionals available.

It is also essential that qualified back-up officers are also available for relief needs of assigned SRO’s.

According to the document, “To Protect & Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools,” published by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), the activities of the SRO include the following:

  • Meeting with principals each morning to exchange information gathered from parents, community members, and social media to detect potential spillover of threats, drug activity, and other behavior onto campus.
  • Meeting with campus and community social workers to understand when and how at home issues may be motivating a student’s disruptive behavior in order to work with school staff to ensure effective and supportive responses.
  • Listening to students’ concerns about bullying by other students and taking those problems to school administrators to help develop solutions.
  • Coordinating additional law enforcement resources to assist with large public events on school campuses such as athletic events, dances, and community functions.
  • Working with school administrators to keep the school’s Emergency Management Plan updated.
  • Scheduling emergency drills in conjunction with other local agencies.
  1. Preventative System of Education: In my Apr. 24, 2014 article for the Epoch Times titled “American Teachers: Inspire the Heart and Transform the Country,” I argued that there are essentially two basic forms of education in American schools. There is the repressive system that makes rules known, watches for transgressions, and is quick to discipline a student by inflicting condescending correction and punishment. The errant zero-tolerance policy in so many schools is an example of a repressive system—rigid, bureaucratic, and impersonal.

The better pedagogy is the preventative system of education. In this system, educators are vigilant in a caring manner and offer patient guidance from the heart consistent with kindness, character, and reasonableness. The preventive system of education builds trust, respect, and connections with students and the community. This pedagogy is the opposite of a zero-tolerance approach. The preventative system responds to concerns with measured interventions that promote reasonableness, dignity, and respect.

The repressive system is dictatorial and may temporarily stop a disorder or a warning sign, but will not inspire students or properly remedy the issue. The preventative system speaks the language of the heart and is transformational. It provides speedy intervention to warning signs due to the educator’s dedication, presence, and corrective follow-through.

The preventative system of education is inseparable from a robust character education program and culture.

  1. Professional Development Programs: these programs are important for all staff members and must include coaches, parents, cafeteria personnel, SRO’s, board of education members, and all involved with the school. Some of the topics I have covered in my professional development programs include Ambassadors of Community Transformation, American School Violence Prevention, Character Education: Vital to the School Community, Early Warning Signs: Preventing a School Violence Crisis, Crisis Planning, Transforming Our Schools: The Heart and Brick of School Security, 21st Century Parenting: Interested, Informed, Involved, and Creating a Culture of Achievement and Character.

 Insights from classic government documents including Early Warning Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools, Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Safe Schools and Communities, The Final Report And Findings Of The Safe School Initiative: Implications For The Prevention Of School Attacks In The United States, and Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide To Managing Threatening Situations And To Creating Safe School Climates should also be incorporated into training programs.

  1. Character Development Initiatives for Students: Schools must provide the leadership to instill a culture of character. Developing students with hearts of character built on the pillars of honesty, respect, civility, and patriotism must be paramount throughout America’s educational communities. Character is critical for transforming America and ending its culture of violence. Character education must be consistent, exemplified, and rewarded in our schools. Students must be inspired to realize that lives of character influence their schools, families, communities, and the very heart of the nation. A robust character education program is inseparable from the preventative system of education previously recommended.

Final Reflections

The response to school violence is multi-faceted and involves many disciplines and these tips serve as a good starting point.

Other important elements for school security include board certified security directors, robust bullying awareness and prevention programs, crisis management teams, threat assessment teams, and updated emergency plans that continually test all response and communication systems.

We must wake up and put the lessons learned from school and campus violence tragedies into action.

Each of us must play our part to be catalysts in the reawakening of America.  This will take place when we implement comprehensive security enhancements, respond to warning signs with full-force resolve, and build collaboration with all members of the school community.

Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen to Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.