The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools

ORIGINALLY FOUND AT: https://passk12.org/

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has a singular focus: To provide school administrators, school boards and public safety and security professionals with guidelines for implementing a layered and tiered approach to securing and enhancing the safety of their school environments.

Today’s school safety and security challenges are multifaceted and complex.  There is no single action that that will, by itself, make our schools safe, and for that reason it is essential to pursue solutions across the emergency management spectrum of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

However, it is clear that modern, effective security infrastructure should be an essential component of any comprehensive school safety strategy.  When other prevention efforts fail, facility security measures are critical to protection, mitigation and response to school violence.

The PASS guidelines are focused on best practices for securing school facilities.  They were developed to help address several needs identified by the education community:

  • Identification of specific actions that can be taken to raise the baseline of security
  • Information on vetted security practices specific to K-12 environments
  • A means to measure current facility security with best practices despite the general lack of standards and legislative or regulatory requirements
  • Identification of multiple options for addressing security needs, based on available resources

This session will be a high level review of the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), the challenges schools face in securing their environments and the PASS roadmap of “Best Practices” and tools to help school districts through the process.

To protect our kids and make schools safer, let’s turn to the states for help

After a tragic shooting in a south Florida school earlier this year, 17 parents no longer wait for the sound of the school bus coming home in the afternoon. Among families across the states, awareness is at a fever pitch, and calls for action are plentiful. But, action does not necessarily mean solutions.

Budget appropriations do not necessarily mean safety. With more than 150 school safety related bills considered by state legislatures this year, the American people and the legislators they have elected have a unique opportunity to create real solutions for school safety. Today’s epidemic of school violence calls for a full review and in-depth study of school security practices and what proposals have been proven to work.

Will change come from perimeter security or door wedges? These are real questions. The answer to each is yes, no and maybe. While swift action — in the form of appropriation — shows legislators are committed to ensuring school safety, there are myriad solutions that deserve attention and analysis.

Nationally, there are about 100,000 K-12 public schools, serving nearly 50 million students with six million teachers and staff, for about 180 days of every year. With thousands of school systems implementing a variety of approaches to school safety, there is no shortage of effort, but legislators need to identify and help implement solutions that work.

And, all options should be on the table. However, the real question is not who can act the fastest, but what actions can be taken that give kids and schools the safe learning environment they deserve. There are no binary solutions to tackle these issues, but an uncompromising commitment to school safety must be the focus of all decision makers at every level of government.

Many programs, solutions and resources are already in place in states around the nation. School security and safety reforms in states like Connecticut, Indiana, and others should serve as successful blueprints for other states.

The implementation of reforms must be done quickly and efficiently, but with the needed time for empirical analysis of program results. Some school safety measures can be costly, though others may be simple and cost effective. Utah’s SafeUT Line a 24/7 anonymous tip line available to students to report bullying or threats empowers students with a “see something, say something” mentality.

Some states already offer promising practices that are being implemented to great effect. Lawmakers in Connecticut have passed laws requiring electronic surveillance at access points to campuses, as well as tamper proof locks.

In Texas, the Texas School Safety Center was created in 2001 to serve as a central location for school safety information and school security state wide. As part of its role, it implements active shooter trainings, security risk assessments, and secures additional funding for ensuring schools are secure against threats.

Mitigating threats alone will not make our schools safer for students and teachers. All too often we read that warning signs of troubled children were evident well before a tragedy occurs. Providing additional mental health resources for schools to intercede with students who may struggle with issues can help ensure they receive the care and support they need before they resort to violence. Providing these types of holistic approaches can stop the problem at its root.

Some states also have complex legal codes and structures in place that govern different aspects of schools in different manners. Creating a plan of action and working quickly to untangle bureaucratic logjams is key to helping effectively create legislation that will create safer campuses and give lawmakers the understanding they need to create standards in areas they may never have imagined.

As the largest voluntary membership association of American state legislators, the American Legislative Exchange Council is uniquely positioned to convene such a discussion. This week, more than one thousand state legislators from across the 50 states will join together in New Orleans for an in-depth discussion about what’s working.

They will identify principles for school security. These are not prescriptions, rather they will be a broad framework for guidance, assessment and implementation that take all factors and stakeholders into account.

It’s time for states around nation to come together and share the tools needed to ensure kids are safe and focused on learning. Now is not the time for partisanship or personal attacks. It is not the time for motive questioning or marginalizing possible solutions. Our kids are too important. They are the most important. Everyone agrees on that point, so let’s start there.

Robert Boyd is the executive director of Secure Schools Alliance, a national leadership organization focused on improving the security infrastructure, security technology and life safety systems of America’s K-12 public schools. Lisa B. Nelson is chief executive officer of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the nation’s largest voluntary membership association of state legislators.

Special Edition: School Security

Dear Readers,

In 2017, the Secure Schools Alliance (the Alliance) began a unique relationship with the DomPrep Journal. The goal was to raise awareness of the need to improve K-12 school security within the emergency preparedness community.

Recognizing that school shootings are low-probability/high-consequence events, The Alliance has provided digital content to the journal over the past year. This content began with the macro argument of why school security needs to be improved and concluded with a call to recognize that schools are a critical part of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, which has been ignored for way too long.

These articles showed that one does not need to sustain a physical injury to be a victim of a mass event at a school. They expressed the need to educate students on what “see something say something” means and the critical role of the public safety community in the education of youths. They shared how one community has been impacted by multiple mass incidents and how they responded and recovered.

As the Alliance and its partners make the rounds with legislators and policy makers, the question is frequently asked, “How much will school security improvements cost?” One article showed how much the favored approach, The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) guidelines, cost one school district and what that approach would cost on a state-by- state basis.

A huge concern in the frenzy after recent school shootings is the need to balance security and safety concerns. That issue was addressed with a case study of one state, Indiana, which has been proactive in its approach to school safety and appropriately serves as a model for other states.

Many states are passing legislation and forming commissions and task forces to address the needs of their states and communities. Unfortunately, many states are merely throwing money at what they perceive to be the problems, sometimes without careful thought or research into the solutions they prescribe. Policy makers are urged to consult with those organizations representing educators, parents, public safety, law enforcement, critical infrastructure protection, industry, and nonprofits that remain at the forefront of protecting safe and secure schools.

This journey began a year ago, in 2017. So far in 2018, the United States has had more of its citizens die in school shootings than in its entire military. The time for action is now.

Sincerely,
Robert Boyd, Executive Director, Secure Schools Alliance

Littleton Public Schools Evolve Security Roadmap with Collaborative Team

In late 2012, Guy Grace, LPS Director of Security and Emergency Planning, Littleton Public Schools, came to an important conclusion, “I was so frustrated with our DVRs that we’d been installing since the last bond issue approval. At first, they were meeting our needs, they could handle the PTZ cameras and motion detection, but over time the supplier started eliminating basic functions we needed. It was making our jobs harder than they needed to be.”

Littleton Public Schools (LPS), in Colorado, continue to roll out new cameras, hybrid NVRs, access control, intrusion, and a host of other systems, as they move toward their ambitious goal of creating a district-wide, comprehensive Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) system.

Upon completion, the new PSIM system will oversee and coordinate security for approximately 15,000 students and staff at LPS’ 27 school and administrative buildings, spread out over 29 miles. “A full-fledged PSIM system is our end goal. We can bring a variety of systems that are non-proprietary—access control, VMS, fire detection, perimeter, mass notification, barrier protection/detection, and diagnostic systems—all together into one unified system. Technology has my back,” said Grace.

In December 2013, LPS suffered a fatal shooting at their Arapahoe High School. “The shooting caused us to expedite everything, and our technology and integrator partners (Beacon Communications and Team Linx) responded well to our sped-up timeline.”

Grace added, “A PSIM allows us the flexibility to grow and expand, if needed we can have four operators at any one time in our control room. We have the flexibility to bring in people to deal with what is happening, what is needed. My staff needs to liaise with 145 users across our entire district. We have to manage this system as efficiently as possible, so we train our people to wear multiple hats. It seems to be working; we have not had any staff turnover since 2010.”

A total of 145 people have access to the video footage and eventually all data coming from the PSIM. At present, LPS is issuing various users with 145 tablets with Android software to enable mobility and faster, more accurate responses. LPS is providing designated security and police vehicles with video feeds as well.

“One of the greatest challenges related to K-12 security technology deployments is to have the ability to evolve with constantly changing demands on school safety. School Security must enhance the ability of the students to learn and for teachers to teach. In 2004, we put in a fantastic analog, black box cabling system. It was great then, but 10 years later, it’s completely obsolete because it so severely limits our options and ability to respond to a changing landscape,” recalled Grace.

Other major vendor partners in the LPS project included Open Options, Aiphone, and Altronix for access control, while Bosch, Inovonics, and Optex handled intrusion detection.

Staying Well Ahead of Obsolescence

In the past, there were significant challenges that arose when school districts deployed security technology. Often the older technology did not evolve with new threats and as a result became obsolete. A school district can overcome obsolescence by utilizing a PoE infrastructure for its security technology deployments. PoE allows a school district to adopt non-proprietary technologies for access control, IP cameras, Intercoms, duress, asset protection, mass notification, to name a few.  As a result, the school district is able to immediately adapt and mitigate new vulnerabilities.

“As we looked out over the technology supplier landscape, we were looking for companies that were consistently evolving their technologies. In doing so, we could evolve alongside our chosen technology providers. Now, we can implement in different schools and move equipment around. Without PoE, we simply could not evolve. We’re not stuck like 10 years ago, as long as the makers continue to innovate. We’re avoiding being stagnant, and using our capital reserve money to invest for the future. We can now afford to do things we could never do before,” said Grace.  “Our overall security goal is pretty simple:  we must have quality technology delivering quality results because we cannot have a successful educational experience without safety and security well taken care of.”

Technology Partners’ Contributions

Physical Security Information Management System

Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) is a category of software that provides a platform and applications created by middleware developers, designed to integrate multiple unconnected security applications and devices and control them through one comprehensive user interface. It collects and correlates events from existing disparate security devices and information systems (video, access control, sensors, analytics, networks, building systems, etc.) to empower personnel to identify and proactively resolve situations. PSIM integration enables numerous organizational benefits, including increased control, improved situation awareness and management reporting.

LPS is considered a pioneer in PSIM and an industry influencer for other school districts to adopt similar processes with life safety systems.  The LPS PSIM officially came online mid-summer 2016. The system being deployed is a first of its kind in K-12 due to its interactivity design for the operator. The system is customized for various users from the District Security office to the users at the school level. LPS looked at several vendors and Open Options was able to prove that they could meet our specifications and high-level needs.

PoE Cabling for the Future

Power over Ethernet allows a single cable to provide both data connection and electrical power to devices such as intercoms, door controllers, and security cameras. PoE-based devices are the new standard in security equipment such as surveillance and access control. The whole LPS Physical Security System is based on a POE data and power system.  The district used the 2012 bond issue to install PoE infrastructure to meet LPS security needs for many years to come. This infrastructure allows LPS to add and/or move needed security devices such as cameras, card readers, and other devices without tremendous upfront expenses. With the old way of adding security components to an access control system, the costliest component was often the installation of the device, not the device itself. The PoE infrastructure also improves response times in the upkeep of the systems. Each school has dedicated environmentally controlled Main Distribution Facility rooms dedicated to housing, organizing, and protecting the cabling and main hardware components. PoE cabling needs for the school district came through integrators Beacon Communications and Team Linx.

Updated Video Surveillance Systems

In the summer of 2015, LPS began migrating existing analog surveillance systems to 3xLOGIC NDVRs. The first schools went online in August 2015.  The LPS Security Department also improved the base systems at each school by adding additional HD cameras. It was determined that the new 3xLOGIC security cameras were more cost effective, of higher quality, easier to install, and had a longer lifespan than the older technology—this was unexpected, welcome news and a clear indication of LPS growing with evolving, improving technology.

As a result of lessons learned, the bond issues for 2016 and 2017 determined that it was more cost efficient for the long term for all existing analog cameras to be replaced with new IP cameras.  Now, the new video surveillance system fully integrates with the PISM system. Over time, LPS Security will also utilize many of the new features the updated Video Surveillance system offers such as analytics, tracking, motion sensors, and mobile applications.

“I really liked that the hybrid NVR allowed me to incorporate existing analog cameras and add new IP cameras whenever I wanted. This was a lifesaver because I can eliminate older tech and migrate to IP at my pace and budget. This also allows us to have compatibility across all our schools, and that’s crucial,” said Grace.

Once the project is completed, LPS will have a total 1400 cameras, of which about 800 cameras are installed as of August 2016. Grace expects full migration to HD IP cameras by 2017.

Access Control System

The most visible security equipment at the schools is the proximity card readers at designated entrances, followed by two-way video intercom stations and the security cameras on the exterior of the building.

To address the “all hazards” emergencies the school district may face, the security system must be integrated with technologies that meet district needs. School security in a basic sense starts with access control. As for the LPS, the district sought an access control partner able to provide a user-friendly monitoring interface while also providing the ability to interface with other technology providers now and in the future. The system had to be open source to suit the district’s needs for many years. After significant research and multiple demonstrations, Open Options was chosen. In 2012, before selecting Open Options, LPS had already selected 3xLogic for the VMS. Open Options and 3xLOGIC immediately worked together in 2013 to create the drivers and processes that would allow the two to build the backbone of the access control system.

Updated Loss Prevention Devices

In the 2012 bond issue, LPS chose to update existing loss prevention devices. Loss prevention devices are motion detectors, door contacts, and beam detectors that are deployed inside and outside LPS Schools. LPS had a strong partnership with Inovonics wireless since 2002 and chose them again to be the provider. Inovonics products allowed the district to avoid hard wiring the devices to a panel, which saves the district substantial money in avoiding installation costs for wiring and conduit.

Duress Systems

With regard to duress systems, by utilizing the Inovonics loss prevention system the district can add duress devices to infrastructure. The first deployment of the duress system is to utilize the devices as one way to quickly lock down the school and call for help. In the future, by adding more devices this establishes a safer environment by providing an easy method for teachers to signal for help with panic buttons. Inovonics mobile duress panic buttons are easily integrated into the existing security system panels to provide an effective increase in safety. By deploying this solution, the district is able to provide a cost efficient, easily maintained a system that can expand and evolve to meet changing needs.

Inovonics integrated into Bosch panels, which in turn are integrated into the VALCOM system for mass notification. If a wireless lockdown button is pushed the card readers are disabled and the door strikes lock and mass notification messages are broadcasted. This acts as an immediate barrier to an active shooter while enhancing the response of staff and students inside affected schools.

Updated Video Intercom Capabilities

LPS is installing two-way intercoms at all the schools. The chosen technology is the Aiphone IX Series Intercoms, featuring video entry security, internal communication, emergency stations, and paging. All system units and apps can unlock doors remotely, assist onsite visitors from an offsite location, broadcast emergency announcements, and communicate over the PoE network.

Among the standout features from the technology is the intercom’s ability to record audio and video of visitors on the network digital video recorders. Now, LPS has an extra camera, the ability to record all the transactions at the door in voice and video, the ability to talk to the door from the school and from the security office miles away. Also, these intercoms can now be used as call-for-help stations 24/7.

Integration of Mass Notification Systems

Through the VALCOM system and integration with the PSIM system, the district implemented safety alert protocols for the start of the 2016 school year. Currently, LPS has mass notification announcements including fire, lockdown, secured perimeter, directed response, lightning alert, tornado watch, and a tornado warning. Speakers are placed strategically inside and outside the schools for mass notification. They also work in conjunction with fire strobes. The district security office and each individual school can implement any of these alerts at any time.

PC, Android, and Mobile Applications

The new PSIM system is fully deployable for mobile applications, LPS is issuing 145 tablets with Android software to users for mobile responses. Security Officers and School Resource Officers can utilize video surveillance system data while on patrol from designated mobile devices. Intercoms and visitor management can also be done on District-provided android devices. Each school is also being provided a custom PSIM interface to be utilized by staff for security needs. Designated, authorized persons have access to cameras, building schedules, and the ability to know when a door is open. The district is providing designated security and police vehicles with video and data feeds as well.

Motivated Integrators

Grace is in near-daily contact with his integrators, Beacon Communications, and Team Linx. Both integrators installed the security infrastructure at the schools. Linx also won the contract to complete the LPS head end command center.

“Non-proprietary technologies allow the district to stay on the curve with addressing all hazards emergencies. This strategy also helps us bring the best technology into the district and it attracts the best integrators to help us with selecting products and developing processes and solutions.”  The integrators were early advocates of open systems, “Through our integrators, we also made sure that all of our stakeholders were reached in the design and build of the system.”

The System in Action

Grace described how the system works for him, “I have already taken out some installed 3xlogic cameras and put in newer cameras that have evolved with better features. I have moved the older cameras to a place those cameras work great and used the new tech to address higher-level needs. I suffer no loss of money, and the ease of installation allows us to do the work. So, let’s say we want to try intercoms down the road; we can do that by using the same cabling already installed in the schools.

Another emphasis is LPS’s ability to empower each of the 26 schools in their own security.  Grace pointed out that all the systems will be on 145-plus employees’ desktops so that these employees can facilitate access control and site security as well.

“Over the last number of years, more money has been provided to the Security Department because our work has a tremendous benefit to the school district in that it enhances the learning environment and makes us more attractive to parents who are shopping for the best school. The LPS Board has been very impressed, they see money well spent and that’s huge. We’re not a cost center; we’re an innovative department adding tangible value,” added Grace who also said the new system has reduced vandalism 75 percent.

“The ease of system use and the compliments we get have seen a big improvement. That’s huge. You want it to be a positive experience so that our people will use it. If we’re using the integrated PSIM system, then we’re successfully improving security on our campuses,” Grace concluded.

Submitted by:  Guy Grace, LPS and Bruce Doneff, 3xLOGIC

Inside Experts’ Push to Steer The School Security Industry Toward Collaboration, Best Practices

The future of school security rests on officials’ ability to recognize vulnerabilities, identify appropriate solutions and understand what resources are available to them.

Inside Experts’ Push to Steer The School Security Industry Toward Collaboration, Best Practices

As funds for security budgets continue to flow, school and district officials are grappling with how best to secure their campuses.

As security budgets continue to swell in the wake of this year’s horrific school shootings, members of the security industry are pushing for the creation of better support structures for school officials making spending decisions.

One of the organizations leading that charge is the Secure Schools Alliance (SSA), a non-profit calling for a national conversation between education officials, industry leaders and government agencies to provide schools with more guidance and resources at the state level.

“We believe every state should have a School Safety Center,” says Robert Boyd, the executive director of SSA. “We think these standards should be set at the state level because the issues and types of facilities that you’re dealing with in New York are different from Florida and California, and thus the solutions need to be different.”

Boyd says states like Indiana, Texas and Maryland are models for what his group would like to see in states across the country.

Want to learn the incident prevention, mitigation and response strategies that work? Attend the 2018 Campus Safety Conferences! This summer’s sessions will cover campus protests, free speech, emergency preparedness, crisis management, school shootings, threat assessments, preparing for major weather events, the opioid epidemic, table top exercises, Clery compliance, lockdown, security technology, emergency notification, athletic department management and more. Register today at CampusSafetyConference.com or call (855) 351-0927.

For instance, Maryland’s Center for School Safety works with local school systems, law enforcement agencies, community organizations and other groups to coordinate school safety efforts in the state by:

  • Providing information on safety best practices, programs and available resources for schools
  • Providing technical assistance and training
  • Collecting, analyzing and integrating statewide data
  • Promoting interagency efforts to ensure safe schools

Having such an accessible hub to promote collaboration gives schools a clear path to making informed, effective security decisions— a particularly useful resource in times like this, when emotions are high and everyone’s looking for answers.

“There’s a rush right now to throw money at the problem,” Boyd says. “On the one hand, it’s great to allocate these resources, but then everybody needs to call a timeout.”

As Security Technologies Advance, Best Practices Remain Essential

There have never been more flashy new security systems for school districts to invest in, but before officials dig into the dizzying features included in each solution, they should conduct a thorough, objective risk assessment.

These assessments are a great way to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize areas for improvement.

“Don’t rush and do what the local salespeople are telling you to do,” Boyd cautions. “School officials are getting bum rushed. Every school needs a safety plan, but they need to step back and think about things just like they would a curriculum plan.”

School officials don’t need to invest in pricey assessments from private organizations either. Instead, Boyd says officials should talk to local law enforcement agencies and consider some of the free tools available online.

For instance, in conjunction with the Police Foundation and school safety expert Dr. Erroll Southers, SSA published a list of free facility security assessment resources at the federal and state levels.

“Every school needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” Boyd says. “Schools in the same district may need totally different things, and that’s due to things like school design and culture.”

 

The Secure School Alliance’s legislation tracker lets users select the state they want to learn more about.

From there, Boyd says officials could check out the free Security Plan Checklist offered by the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, a partner organization of SSA that’s updating its school security guidelines.

SSA is also putting together a list of funding sources available to school districts in addition to partnering with the Police Foundation to conduct research on which states have school security standards already in place. As you may have noticed, things are changing quickly right now on that front, so SSA is actively tracking approximately 150 bills on school security across the country.

“The goal is to show that there is no need to reinvent the wheel,” Boyd says. “We’re saying to states, ‘You don’t need a task force that takes all new testimony and takes forever. What you really need is a task force that goes through what we’re providing on what each of the states has done, and then figure out what you want for your state.’”

SSA is waiting until many legislative sessions end in June before releasing the bulk of its findings. Fortunately, that timeline perfectly coincides with a major opportunity to get in front of lawmakers…

The GovSummit and Future Plans

SSA and the Police Foundation will release their preliminary research findings at the Security Industry Association’s annual Government Summit being held in Washington, D.C. at the end of June.

The summit brings hundreds of public and private sector security professionals to the nation’s capital to discuss the government’s role in the face of an evolving— and increasingly technological— security landscape.

So far, the Police Foundation has identified 15 states that have school security standards or may have them soon. The Police Foundation will finish its research over the summer.

SSA, meanwhile, plans to broaden its focus to include the federal government.

Although Boyd doesn’t want overly-broad, unfunded school security mandates, he does think the federal government should play a more prominent role in school safety issues.

“There’s no place for states to look right now,” Boyd says.”We think there needs to be a Center of Excellence centered on school safety and security. The Department of Homeland Security did this for terrorism.”

Boyd envisions a collaborative office based on input from security, education, government and academic officials. He points to initiatives like the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program as examples.

For SSA, all these efforts are just the latest in what’s been a whirlwind year for the school security industry. SSA has worked with lawmakers on the state level crafting bills and, most notably, helped Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) write the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018.

The sweeping national law is just one of many changes coming to an industry that’s never moved faster.

For now, though, Boyd’s advice to school officials with money to spend is simple.

“Breathe,” he says. “Talk to local law enforcement. Talk to state agencies responsible for critical infrastructure protection. Do your homework before you do anything.”

Indiana’s Emergency Response Guidelines for School Safety

The 2016 Legislative Session of the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 147 requiring the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) to establish minimum standards and approve best practices no later than 1 July 2017 for a school emergency response system. The new guidelines are helping to improve school safety and security across the state and offer a template for other states to consider when reviewing and updating their emergency response systems.

Senate Bill 147 defines the term “emergency response system” and requires the department to establish emergency response system guidelines with input from the Division of School Building Safety within the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). Emergency response systems were given the following definition:

Systems designed to improve technology and infrastructure on school property that may be used to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a manmade or natural disaster or emergency occurring on school property.

The legislation was written in such a way that provided IDHS flexibility to develop a product that best addressed the legislative requirement. As mentioned in the definition above, it was important that the product addressed an all-hazards approach to school safety, which would more effectively address a well-rounded emergency response system. The legislation required IDHS to simply develop guidelines, rather than requirements for schools to follow. This has allowed Indiana schools to be flexible with their implementation of the guidelines.

Collaborative Effort

It was essential for state government to include external stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to ensure that the developed guidelines included the most appropriate information and was developed with input from around the state. The product working group involved nine Indiana professional associations related to public safety and education, federal professional associations, and state government agencies that brought important perspectives into the decision-making process (all partners are listed on page 1 of the document).

This group brought together approximately 20 individuals who met four times throughout 2016 and the first half of 2017 to implement a strategy, discuss and debate product content, and ensure that a well-rounded safety and security document was developed.

The Product

The final product, titled Indiana School Safety Guidelines for Emergency Response Systems, identified 17 school emergency response components as decided by the project working group. The components address the necessary pieces of an emergency response system that are encouraged to be included in every school. The guidelines focus on the following recommendations:

  • Access Control & Visitor Management
  • Training & Exercise Opportunities
  • Planning, Procedure, and Policy
  • Facility Safety Leadership and Direction
  • Importance of Building Relationships with and Involving Local First Responders

These five topics are expanded upon within each of the 17 components.

One of the consistent themes of the product is “people over products.” The group acknowledges the importance of physical tools for safety and security (e.g., doors, locks, windows), but without training these tools are less effective. Putting the focus on the people involved in school safety emphasizes building relationships with first responders, preparing uncommon stakeholders (e.g., facilities staff, parents, bus staff) for emergency situations, and identifying methods of utilizing the large student population as a trained safety and security mitigation tool.

On 1 July 2017, the project working group successfully developed a product that has been disseminated around Indiana. To share this information, professional associations, local emergency management agencies, and IDOE were utilized, and a copy was posted for the public on the IDHS website.

Indiana’s Emergency Response Guidelines for School Safety

Moving Forward

The legislation not only required IDHS to develop guidelines, but also maintain them. No specific maintenance schedule was provided, but IDHS determined that an annual review of the product was appropriate and would disseminate an updated product on 1 July 2018.

With the 2017 product released, it is important that IDHS request feedback from individuals who work in and around schools on a daily basis. To do that, the IDHS needed to get into the communities and talk with its partners. This socialization initiative is helping to gain statewide agreement and support for the included content, to guide content, and to direct the future of this product.

IDHS identified County School Safety Committee Meetings, held in each Indiana County, as the best method for receiving product feedback. Meetings occur at the discretion of the committee, some on a monthly basis, whereas others occur once per year. County commission meetings bring together representatives from the schools, first responders, local government, state government, and relevant private industry.

Through the end of 2017 and into early 2018, IDHS intends to attend county commission meetings around the state to elicit input. Through December 2017, IDHS has already attended 10 county meetings in various parts of the state. The important feedback received has seen information added to the National Incident Management Systems trainings that is specific to school employees and addresses the importance of providing safety training to part-time or contract staff.

The project working group will continue to play a critical role in the development and revision of this document. The working group will review any information included in this document to maintain transparency and collaborative input.

Robert Quinn currently serves as the Indiana State continuity director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. In this position, he leads the IDHS school safety projects. Working with school safety specialists from around the state, he has been able to facilitate the coordinated efforts to create school safety guidelines assigned by the Indiana Senate Bill 147 (2016). He has been involved in addressing school safety topics such as architectural design and renovation of schools within Indiana, providing additional hazmat and radiological awareness information, improving both higher education and K-12 event management preparation, and assisting in the development and implementation of a statewide higher education/emergency management consortium.

Indiana Offered State School Security Model During SIA GovSummit

Tim Eckersley of Allegion discusses school safety at SIA GovSummit.

​Officials shared perspective on emergency preparedness measures adopted by the state of Indiana for school security in a panel discussion presented by the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the Congressional School Safety Caucus during the 2017 SIA GovSummit last month.

Introducing speakers at the Summit, Tim Eckersley, senior vice president and president of the Americas region, Allegion hailed his home state as a national leader for the steps it has undertaken in response to Indiana Senate Bill 147, signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2016.

Eckersley represents Allegion as a stakeholder in the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), an organization co-founded by SIA to prescribe school safety and security guidelines for America’s K-12 schools. Speaking at the panel on June 28, Eckersley called school safety and security “a personal passion” and thanked SIA and Allegion for providing him with a platform to address challenges facing U.S. schools.

“At Allegion, we have decided to put our money, our talent and our efforts where our mouths are, together with parents, educators, policymakers, emergency managers, first responders, and the security industry to help solve deficiencies in the security infrastructure and security technology and life-safety systems in America’s schools,” Eckersley said.

There are roughly 100,000 K-12 public schools across the United States, and the average school facility is about 44 years old, he reported. Regardless of school size or funding, PASS (www.passk12.org) provides guidelines schools can implement to protect their staff and students.

Indiana created a model for other states to follow, Eckersley added. In 2016, the Indiana legislature directed state homeland security department to establish and maintain guidelines for school emergency response systems. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security submitted those initial guidelines to the state legislature on July 1.

The law requires each school district in Indiana to employ a certified school safety specialist, meaning that the state was required to train and certify at least 300 such experts. Last year, Indiana trained and certified about 2,500 specialists as schools went above and beyond the requirement of the law to ensure a certified school safety specialist in each facility.

“In Indiana, the crucial element to a crisis response is a well-trained staff and student body,” explained David Woodward, director of school building physical security and safety, Indiana Department of Education, during the panel.

Indiana is the only state in the United States to require such training, which is provided to a designated educator at no cost. The specialists learn effective drills, protocols and applicable laws, among other things, during five days of training. Every year, specialists return for two additional days of advanced training to address ever-changing threats and best practices to mitigate those threats.

Ninety percent of participants rate the training as very helpful, Woodward said. “Educators are hungry for this training.”

The Indiana Department of Education also reviews school emergency preparedness plans. The department selects 60 school districts a year at random for review. The department is aware that training is key, Woodward said, so plans allow for flexibility to substitute fire drill training, required monthly, with lockdown training or severe weather training up to four times a year.

Indiana Senate Bill 147 also instituted a grants programs for state schools, whether public, private or charter schools. Each school can qualify for a grant up to $50,000 for schools with populations over 1,000 or up to $35,000 for schools with populations under $35,000. The grants total up to $10 million, disbursed over a two-year cycle.

Grant funding from the Secure School Safety Grant provides money for salaries of school resource officers, threat assessments, and equipment, such as access control measures, alarms and communications, said Robert Quinn, Domestic Security Planner, Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

State officials review grant proposals and approve those that make a good case, although officials reserve the right to prescribe specific improvements. For example, if a school requests funding for cameras, but lacks proper locks on doors, officials may direct the school to use grant funding for locks instead.

Schools face a requirement to match the state funds, which has presented a challenge for schools that do not have the money. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is seeking relief for the match requirement, Quinn said. In addition, the majority of schools have spent their grant funds so far toward salaries for school resource officers. The department is exploring ways to increase capacity among local law enforcement to relieve the demand for school resource officers, thus empowering schools to propose spending more money on equipment and technology.

Indiana Senate Bill 147 tasked the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to develop emergency response system guidelines, which were delivered July 1.

The guidelines outlined recommendations for:

  • School emergency operations plans
  • Exterior doors (recommended to be locked during school hours at all times)
  • Classroom doors (locked doors during class periods)
  • Training and drills for students
  • Facility hallways (putting teachers in corridors during breaks to interact and remain watchful)
  • Common response procedures and common terminology
  • Communications plan with first responders
  • School resource officer and law enforcement presence

“We stress people over products,” Quinn said, emphasizing a theme to Indiana’s approach to school safety and security.

For more information on SIA GovSummit, visit www.securityindustry.org/​summit.

How Best to Secure U.S. Schools

The cases present largely the same way: A troubled white male with a gun gains entry to a school in a leafy green suburb of a small, majority-white, middle- or upper-class community known for being safe and having a good education system.

They’re places like Benton, Kentucky; Rockford, Washington; and, most recently, Parkland, Florida, where a former student killed 17 children and adults last month in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The towns could generally be described as “sleepy,” their populations often not even creeping into the five figures. Violent crime usually isn’t a factor. Parkland, for example, recorded just one homicide in the last 15 years – a 2014 domestic killing in which a husband fatally stabbed his wife after seeing her with another man. They’re often not places traumatized daily by local headlines of gunplay and death.

They stand in stark contrast to urban areas like Chicago and Baltimore, where killings come annually by the hundreds, poverty persists, and gun violence in neighborhoods immediately outside the schools can be unrelenting and unsparing. Young people in those predominantly black places experience a different, and no less damaging, type of trauma. But to now, they have largely been spared the mass-shooter scenario.

The schools in areas where gun violence is part of everyday life are not securing their campuses very differently from the seemingly “safe” schools where mass shootings have taken place, school safety experts say. In fact, they say, when it comes to securing schools, each strategy is unique.

“There is a no template for school security,” says Erroll Southers, professor at the University of Southern California and director of the school’s Safe Communities Institute. “Every school is different. Every school has its own vulnerabilities, it has its own assets and it has its own cultures.”

He similarly says there is no single security weakness that shooters exploit when they attack a school.

“I’m really reluctant to suggest that there is some commonality other than there was a vulnerability that these individuals took advantage of,” says Southers, a former FBI special agent who has served in counterterrorism and public safety positions at every level of government and who currently helps perform risk assessments for schools across the country. “And I wouldn’t necessarily say the schools were inadequately protected.”

In the case of Parkland, for example, the school had security cameras and armed resource officers who patrolled the grounds. The perpetrator, who had been reported to authorities multiple times, was a former student with behavioral issues who had been expelled. In Newtown, Connecticut, where in 2012 a gunman fatally shot 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six school staff members, emergency drills involving teachers and students had recently been conducted. The shooter, a former student with mental health issues who lived near the school, killed himself at the scene.

While schools may conduct safety drills and while parents and politicians debate the pros and cons of arming teachers, school security experts say there are major lapses that need to be addressed. Only 12 states have established guidelines or standards for school facility security, for example. And only 12 states provide school districts with funding for school security. While 48 states require training based on individual school emergency plans, only 27 require schools to audit and assess their facilities.

Six major safety measures as identified by the Secure Schools Alliance. Information was gathered and reviewed by the Police Foundation and the University of Southern California’s Safe Communities Institute.

Those are a few of the six major school security measures states should consider, according to the Secure Schools Alliance. Those measures include having: established funding for districts to use for school security, an adopted set of safety standards that districts can use as guidelines, a requirement that schools have emergency plans and conduct trainings for school staff and students to practice those plans, a requirement that districts and schools audit and assess their facilities and emergency plans, and the creation of school safety centers.

The alliance compiled state school security data in collaboration with the Police Foundation and USC’s Safe Communities Institute and found that only five states currently tick each of the six boxes: Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. Eight states have established all but one.

Two – Hawaii and South Dakota – have none of the identified security measures in place.

“What’s the first thing someone says when they’re interviewed on network TV after a school shooting?” Southers asks. “‘I never thought this would happen here.’ That thinking has to go out the window.”

One of the major hurdles, Robert Boyd, the executive director of the Secure Schools Alliance, says, is that schools and districts are often hesitant to perform vulnerability assessments because, if they don’t have the money to make the recommended upgrades, it could legally implicate them should something happen.

“If I’m a school principal or school superintendent, I don’t want to go assess my schools and figure out where the liabilities are if I don’t have the money to fix them,” Boyd says. “States need to be making grants to schools and districts to implement things they learn based on standards the states set.”

But that shouldn’t be an excuse, he says, since the most effective and impactful things are often the least costly.

“It’s just basic stuff that works,” he says.

One of the most effective deterrents to threats is having established protocols for how people enter the school. Signs directing visitors to a single entrance, for example, where they must sign in, present identification and be approved before gaining entry to the school itself, ideally via some sort of remote locking and unlocking system, is crucial, experts say.

Emergency drills should become as common as fire drills, so students and teachers know exactly what to do. And when it comes to locks, giving staff key cards instead of actual keys to access doors is another low-cost major threat deterrent.

“When you lose keys, that’s a security risk,” Mac Hardy, director of operations at the National Association of School Resource Officers, says. “But if you have a key card, then all you have to do with the click of the computer is turn that card off and it’s a piece of plastic.”

Security cameras, which can be more expensive, also add a relatively simple layer of protection – though only if they work, are maintained properly and someone is watching them.

“If cameras are just up there and look pretty and look good but maintenance is not kept up on them and they have a tendency to break or quit functioning, then what’s the point?” asks Hardy, who previously worked at Hoover High School, just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, which had 187 cameras running. “If you don’t sit there and you don’t have somebody who’s monitoring cameras for the whole school day and that’s their job – their job is not supervising students – then cameras can just be reactive because an incident occurs and you go back and look.”

In Chicago, for example, each school has an individual safety plan that’s tailored to address the unique challenges associated with each neighborhood. In all cases, exterior doors are secured during the school day and visitors must ring a doorbell from the outside that’s equipped with a camera so that staff can see who is trying to enter.

In all schools, safety officers hold posts in different locations, and some schools also employ resource officers from the Chicago Police Department and benefit from staff members that patrol various routes students take to and from school. Students and staff wear identification badges, and some schools utilize metal detectors.

What Chicago benefits from the most, its officials say, is an intensive focus on social and emotional learning and a restorative justice approach to discipline in which schools focus on ways to counsel students who commit nonviolent offenses instead of giving them out-of-school suspensions.

Indeed, schools need to do more than simply secure their campuses, experts agree.

“It’s great to be fortifying our buildings, but I’m also going to say too is that the biggest thing we can do as school officials is try to be more proactive in the mental health areas,” says Guy Grace, the director of security and emergency preparedness for the Littleton School District in Colorado.

Littleton school district, whose neighboring school district suffered through the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, where two seniors fatally shot 12 students and a teacher, performed a risk assessment in the wake of its own school shooting in 2013 at Arapahoe High School, where a student fatally shot another student before killing himself. What they found is that they were actually well-equipped when it came to security protocols but lacked in offering mental health services.

Since then, Littleton has focused on integration of mental health services into their security protocols, so that school psychologists work hand in hand with school resource officers and others to constantly assess potential threats. The district also established a “safe to tell” system that allows students, teachers and other staff to report when someone is acting out of character or violent or making threats.

“That has been really, really helpful for us as a schools district,” Grace says, noting that the safe to tell system has allowed them to interrupt at least two instances in which students were making threats and had made hit lists.

Whatever states, school districts and schools decide to implement, security experts say, the most important thing they can do is constantly reassess their security protocols to avoid any oversights or new issues that arise.

“Once you have it in place and it’s there and you’ve paid the money for it, you’ve got to check on it,” Hardy says. “When you have to answer the question why – why didn’t you do this, or why didn’t you follow up – we hope that your answers for why are very positive because I don’t want to answer the question of why from a parent who just lost a child.”

Federal Spending Bill Would Boost Education Aid, Reject Trump Choice Push

Lawmakers sent a message to President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in their bill to fund the federal government: We’re not the biggest fans of your big education ideas.

Congress would increase spending at the U.S. Department of Education by $2.6 billion over previously enacted levels in fiscal year 2018, up to $70.9 billion, under a new omnibus spending bill that could finally resolve a months-long logjam on Capitol Hill.

In addition, funding for Title I, the biggest pot of federal money for public schools, which is earmarked for disadvantaged students, would increase by $300 million from fiscal 2017 enacted spending, up to $15.8 billion.

The fiscal 2018 spending bill, released late Wednesday, doesn’t contain several key changes sought by Trump in his first budget plan. In fact, Trump’s budget plan for fiscal 2018 would have cut discretionary education spending by $9.2 billion. So Congress’ bill is a significant rebuke of sorts to the president’s education vision.

In fact, the spending bill leaves out a $250 million private school choice initiative the president and DeVos sought, as well as a $1 billion program designed to encourage open enrollment in districts.

Title II, which provides professional development to educators, would be flat-funded at roughly $2.1 billion. The Trump budget pitch for fiscal 2018 eliminated Title II entirely—it was the single biggest cut to K-12 Trump sought for fiscal 2018. And Title IV, a block grant for districts that can fund a diverse set of needs from school safety to ed-tech, would receive $1.1 billion, a big increase from its current funding level of $400 million. Trump also sought to eliminate Title IV.

Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers would rise up by $20 million up to $1.2 billion; that’s another program the Trump budget proposal axed. In addition, special education grants would go up by $299 million to $13.1 billion. And federal aid to charter schools would increase to $400 million, a $58 million boost.

The bill also bars funds from the bill being used for “a reorganization that decentralizes, reduces the staffing level, or alters the responsibilities, structure, authority, or functionality of the Budget Service of the Department of Education.” DeVos has been seeking such a change as part of her effort to restructure and streamline the department.

Lawmakers also rebuffed a move by DeVos to reduce the office for civil rights’ budget by $1 million—the bill increases funding from $109 million to $117 million.

The spending agreement includes a $2.37 billion increase to the Child Care Development Block Grant, totaling $5.226 billion. And it hikes up Head Start funding by $610 million, bringing it to $9.863 billion. Meanwhile, the Preschool Development Grants, which the Trump administration sought to eliminate, were level-funded at $250 million. The program, which was created through ESSA, is a big priority for Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee.

The bill also seeks $120 million for the Education Innovation and Research program or EIR, which helps test out promising practices at the district level. In its most recent budget request, the Trump administration sought to boost that program to $200 million, and fund only projects that would help bolster science, technology, engineering, and math education. Instead, the bill would set-aside a chunk of EIR funding for STEM, $50 million. The rest could go to other kinds of projects.

Congress must first pass the bill and send it to Trump for his signature before these spending levels are set. The government will shut down when Friday turns to Saturday if new spending levels for fiscal 2018 aren’t finalized by then.

Technically, the deadline for lawmakers approving appropriations legislation for this fiscal year was the start of last October. But as you’ve probably heard, Capitol Hill’s dealmaking ability on spending has been weak recently. So federal spending has limped along through a series of resolutions that have largely carried over fiscal 2017 spending.

A sign of how far behind Congress is: House lawmakers just heard from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the president’s fiscal 2019 budget blueprint on Tuesday.

Changes to School Safety

While the bill raises overall federal school safety funding, it also shifts funds from an existing, wide-ranging school safety grant program that focuses on school environments toward the new STOP School Violence Act, which allows that funding to be used for physical security measures, like metal detectors. (The STOP Act, introduced previously in the House and Senate, is included in the omnibus bill.)

The bill takes $75 million appropriated for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative—an existing program in the Department of Justice that funds research and implementation of a wide range of evidence-based safety programs that range from bullying prevention to innovative approaches to school policing—and redirects that funding toward programs authorized under the STOP School Violence Act.

The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which was developed after the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., emphasized evaluation to determine best practices and build an evidence base for school safety programs. The STOP School Violence Act does not include a focus on research and evaluation of the program it funds.

The bill says funding provided through the STOP School Violence Act can be used to support evidence-based programs, violence prevention efforts, and anonymous reporting systems. But it can also be used to support physical security upgrades for schools, like “metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures.”

Some school safety researchers have largely favored efforts to build safe and supportive schools over physical security measures, which they’ve said can make some students feel less safe.

Reaction Comes In

The top Senate Democrat for education, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, praised the bipartisan agreement to dismiss the “extreme ideas to privatize our nation’s public schools and dismantle the Department of Education” from DeVos.

“I’m proud to have worked with Republicans in Congress to flatly reject these ideas, and increase funding for programs Secretary DeVos tried to cut, including K-12 education, civil rights protections, college affordability, and more,” Murray said in a statement.

And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., praised the bill for including the STOP School Violence Act, as well as funding for other programs that can be use to help with school safety, such as Title IV:

 

Meanwhile, the Title IV-A Coalition, which backs more funding for the program, also celebrated the spending bill.

“This level of funding will allow school districts to have true flexibility in determining how to meaningfully invest in and support programs that support safe and healthy students, a well-rounded academic curriculum, and an effective educational technology program,” the group said in a statement.

Educating Leaders on Hardening Schools

The recent release of the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card is notable – not simply because it gave U.S. public schools a D+ grade on their overall condition, but due to its failure to address upgrades needed to the security infrastructure, security technology, and life safety systems of schools. As the new administration and Congress consider a major national infrastructure bill, it is time to invest in upgrading the security infrastructure of K-12 public schools.

Although the report card mentioned the secondary use of public school facilities as “emergency shelters during man-made or natural disasters,” it failed to address the primary use of school facilities. Every day, public schools in the United States house nearly 50 million students and 6 million adults, in 100,000 buildings, encompassing 7.5 billion gross square feet of space, on 2 million acres of public land.

Investments in Security

Per the Education Commission on the States, the average school year is 180 days, or 49 percent of the calendar year. According to the 2016 State of Our Schools report, state and local governments invest more in K-12 public schools (24%) than any other infrastructure sector outside of highways (32%). In fact, that report stated annual capital investment, maintenance, and operations spending from state and local governments on K-12 facilities is $99 billion per year. On the other hand, the report card noted, “the federal government contributes little to no funding for the nation’s K-12 educational facilities.” Given the “staggering scale” of investment, spending, and use of schools by so much of the U.S. population (17%), it can be argued that the federal government should invest more in protecting children and those who care for them daily during half of the year.

Not everyone agrees – some still argue that K-12 public school facilities are the responsibility of local school districts and states. However, there is a clear role and responsibility for the federal government in contributing to the protection of schools, which has been laid out by the Department of Homeland Security. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan lists schools as a subsector of “government facilities” and calls for their planning and protection. Since 9/11, the federal government has done an admirable job of protecting high-value targets – such as federal office buildings, power plants, and dams – from attack. Now, with the rise of both global and homegrown terrorism, the domestic homeland security emphasis has shifted to soft targets.

Internal & External School Threats

The Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology noted that schools and other educational institutions represent soft targets. A soft target is a relatively unguarded site where people congregate, normally in large numbers, thus offering the potential for mass casualties. According to Brenda Heck, deputy assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Counterterrorism Division, “soft targets are now a priority for terrorists determined to inflict damage in the United States…. This is a world where soft targets are the name of the game” (quoted in National Defense Magazine in 2011).

Terrorism is not the only threat of violence that schools face. One study, Violence in K-12 Schools 1974-2013, found almost all mass incidents of violence in elementary schools were committed by intruders and most often committed by adults. In middle and high schools, most violence came from within (students), but intruders – which can be stopped – committed 35% of violence.

The common denominator in the threat to public schools, then, is not the attacker, but the security readiness of the facility. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission made specific recommendations for improving school facility security, and the state of New Jersey has gone as far as mandating security improvements for new and existing schools.

Taking Steps Toward Securing Facilities

With appropriate attention and funding, public schools can conduct the security steps needed to stop intruders before they have an opportunity to commit violence. In fact, most security improvements to school facilities also aid in the reduction of school-based violence and assist authorities in the identification and containment of violence when it occurs.

The first step in the process is to formally assess each school facility because each facility is different. The Secure Schools Alliance Research and Education (the Alliance) organization has released a list of no-cost safety and security facility assessments for K-12 public schools. The Alliance partnered with the Police Foundation and Dr. Erroll Southers of TAL Global to develop the list, which is based on a review of existing open-source federal and state information, so school officials can access the most comprehensive assessment tools available.

In addition to an assessment, each facility needs a security plan. No-cost planning guidelines are available through the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools. Both assessments and plans should be conducted and developed by experts in critical infrastructure protection, in consultation with local law enforcement and local school leaders.

In the coming weeks, the Alliance will be releasing three briefs prepared by the Police Foundation: “Starting the Conversation About School Safety,” “Partner Roles and Responsibilities for Securing Schools,” and “Secure Schools: Part of Healthy Learning Environment.” The briefs are intended to show that the entire community has a role in securing schools and that a secure school does not have to resemble a prison to be effective.

The Alliance has additionally launched a first-of-its-kind tool with the help of the Police Foundation and Southers: An interactive map of state-by-state security policies and resources for K-12 public schools. By selecting a state on the map, school decision makers can access a breakdown of “promising practices,” including state policies and resources related to school safety and security requirements in the following areas: security and assessment; creation and identification of roles and responsibilities for state school safety centers and related committees; school administrators and faculty; allocation of funds for improving school safety and security; and all-hazards emergency planning and preparedness.

Although the Alliance has identified state-by-state resources, local communities and state governments cannot and should not bear sole responsibility for the cost of securing school facilities. For this reason, the Alliance is working with industry and education organizations, parents, fire protection and law enforcement officials, as well as public safety experts to request that the president and congressional leaders designate matching funding to leverage and support the work states, local schools, and communities are doing to improve the security infrastructure, security technology, and life safety systems of K-12 public schools.

“Education and learning cannot happen in an environment that is unsafe. The protection of schools, as an element of our nation’s critical infrastructure, should be deemed a priority for homeland security,” said Southers, a former California deputy director of homeland security for critical infrastructure, during a personal discussion in April 2017. “It is time to have federal financial support for securing U.S. school facilities and protecting the nation’s most critical asset – its children.”

Robert Boyd was formerly an executive at several education nonprofits, including Donorschoose.org, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Community Education Building in Delaware, where he led the $26 million conversion of an 11-story office building into a state-of-the-art campus for charter schools. It has been heralded as the safest building in Wilmington as well as one of the safest schools in the nation. In addition to his role as chief of staff to a senior congressman, he also previously worked in the New York City Mayor’s Office and was public safety chairman for University Park, Texas. He holds degrees from Brown, Harvard, and Southern Methodist universities and can be reached at rboyd@secureschoolsalliance.org