School Security: Wrangling over Risks

Discussions over school security measures can pit stakeholders against one another

A sample of design issues and stakeholders concerns

Small or Large Windows on Classroom Doors

Stakeholders positions: Teachers wanted small windows so that a gunman would have limited visibility and a difficult time opening a locked door. Facilities and the principal wanted large windows, arguing that increased visibility between classrooms and the hall would offset more common risks like fights, theft and vandalism.

Minor consideration: Aesthetically, larger windows are more welcoming.

The winner: Facilities and the principal got their big windows, in part by arguing that if a gunman really wanted to get in, he would be able to, even if the windows were smaller. In essence, visibility won over lockdown mentality. Some teachers have since come around on the windows.

Cameras in Stairwells

Stakeholders positions: Facilities wanted cameras to complete visibility. The building committee said there were legal complications to monitoring in those stairways and wanted to value engineer them out (eliminate them to cut costs) believing that, given the potential privacy issues, they were unnecessary overkill.

Minor consideration: The tall, columnar space of a four-floor stairwell presents some challenges in camera placement and use.

The winner: Stairwell cameras were cut from the plan. Facilities maintains that no legal restrictions exist and this was a clear cost-cutting move. Students have already learned that the stairwells are unwatched, and they go there to smoke and cause trouble. Cameras may yet be added there.

Police Access to Security

Stakeholders positions: Police department wanted full access to the schools cameras along with remote control capabilities. Police also wanted access to the software that governs doors, lighting and lockdowns so that they could take complete charge of the school in a crisis. School stakeholders felt this level of access was unnecessary, could lead to abuse of privilege with less severe situations and could be potentially dangerous if both school officials and law enforcement were trying to control the system at the same time.

Minor consideration: More people with access would mean more people to train and manage in terms of access control.

The winner: Mostly the school. Administration managed to limit police to being able to view camera feeds without the ability to control the cameras, and it did not give access to the other security systems.

Keypad Access Points on External Doors

Stakeholders positions: Law enforcement and some facilities members wanted keypads added for optional access control, which they argued would be useful as backup and if faculty and staffs wireless fobs were lost or their use was being abused. Facilities director argued this was one more thing to break and fix.

Minor consideration: Keypads could be activated for revenue-generating, off-hours activities with many strangers on the premises, like leaguewide tournaments.

The winner: Everyone or no one, depending on how you look at it. The school spent the money to install the keypads but currently they are not used.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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