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.

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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 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.

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.

Another school shooting: Are we numb to it?

LISA MARIE PANE, Associated Press –

ATLANTA (AP) – The shooting of more than a dozen students at a Kentucky high school might have been expected to shock the nation, but Americans seem numbed by the apparent frequency of school shootings since 20 children and six adults were killed at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012, gun-control advocates say.

President Donald Trump took more than 24 hours to express sorrow about the shooting on Twitter – but tweeted about text messages between FBI agents and immigration in the meantime – while Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, tweeted condolences and called Kentucky’s governor the same day. Although the story led many newscasts, much coverage of the shooting in Benton, Kentucky, emphasized how students put past safety training into practice, running as far as a mile (1.6 kilometers) to escape the gunfire.

A 15-year-old boy was in police custody after authorities say he walked into Marshall County High School armed with a pistol Tuesday morning and immediately started firing. Two 15-year-old classmates were killed and 18 others were injured.

Gun safety and school safety advocates say the shock factor has disappeared amid years of school shootings, making them feel like common, everyday events.

“It is a story that feels probably like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” said Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action after watching the shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.

“It almost is like some kind of bar has been set (since Newtown), and if school shootings don’t reach that bar, then maybe they’re not newsworthy, which is in itself wrong,” Watts later added. “We have to care every time a gun goes off on school grounds, no matter what the reason is … because we are the only developed nation where this happens.”

In the five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the United States has had 283 school shootings – 11 since just the beginning of this year – by gun control advocates’ count. The day before the shooting in Benton, a 16-year-old boy shot and injured a 15-year-old girl in the cafeteria at a high school in Italy, Texas – barely a blip on the national news.

Katherine Newman’s book “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings,” zeroes in on two shootings, one of which occurred in Paducah, Kentucky, just 24 miles (40 kilometers) from Benton.

These types of school shootings – rampage shootings – remain uncommon, she said. However, because they are lumped in with all sorts of other shootings near or at schools, they feel like they’re happening more frequently. For example, among the 11 cases this year some count as a school shooting was a 31-year-old man who killed himself in the parking lot of a Michigan elementary school. In researching the 2004 book, Newman said they tracked school shootings from 1970 to 2000 and identified 20 that fit the rampage category.

By the strict definition, no school shootings have happened so far this year except the ones in Kentucky and Texas, plus a teen who killed himself in a school bathroom.

Newman said actual school shootings remain rare and occur most often in places just like Benton: small, rural and viewed as idyllic places to grow up. But those qualities sow the seeds for the kids who carry out these shootings, she said.

“These are tiny towns where people feel like it’s a wonderful place to raise your kids because everyone knows your name,” Newman said.

But in these towns, she said, future shooters grow up surrounded by classmates who seem to be enjoying life, excelling in sports or academics, and being raised in wonderful families. They struggle to fit in and, when they can’t, they conjure up shootings as a way to at least become notorious.

“They were trying to get people to think of them as an antihero because that was better than being thought of as a loser,” she said.

School shootings rarely happen spontaneously or without a few classmates having a whiff it might happen. The solution? Finding ways to ensure kids can tell an adult without feeling like snitches or reactionaries.

Robert Boyd, executive director of the Delaware-based Secure Schools Alliance, which works on making schools safer, said the vast majority of mass shootings at elementary schools are committed by an intruder, while those at middle and high schools are by students.

“The malaise, the tolerance that we as a society have built up about students doing violence on other students, we seem to have more collective outrage when it’s an intruder,” Boyd said. “But we’ve just come to accept that it’s normal for a student to walk in with a gun and start shooting.”

Press Release: Secure Schools Alliance Co-Sponsors Congressional School Safety Caucus Briefing

WILMINGTON, DE (June 15, 2017) – The Secure Schools Alliance Research and Education (the Alliance) organization and the Security Industry Association will co-sponsor the Congressional School Safety Caucus Briefing & Lunch: “Securing America’s K-12 Schools” on June 28, 2017, from 12-1 p.m., at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, HVC-201. The event is free to attend, but registration is required.

Chaired by Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Rick Larsen (D-WA), the Congressional School Safety Caucus (CSSC) is dedicated to bringing lawmakers together with education, law enforcement, government and private sector leaders to discuss how to improve safety and security at our nation’s schools. Rep. Brooks will make remarks on efforts in Congress to improve school safety.

The CSSC is a valuable resource and advocate for the improvement of school safety. We are grateful for their support and the opportunity to present this briefing,” said Robert Boyd, executive director of the Alliance and moderator for the special event. “School safety is a non-partisan issue. We encourage all members of Congress to join the CSSC and help lead the effort to make America’s schools safe.”

The panelists for “Securing America’s K-12 Schools” include:

Michele Gay, Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools. Gay shares the inspiring way she has chosen to help school communities improve school safety in honor of her daughter, Josephine, and memory of the other 19 children and six teachers lost on Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

Guy Grace, Director of Public Safety for the Littleton, Colorado, School District. On April 12, 1999, the world was shocked by the mass murder of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. Learn what changes to school security and safety that community made in response to that tragedy.

Robert Quinn of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and David Woodward of the Indiana Department of Education. Indiana state officials will present the proactive steps that Indiana is taking to improve school security and safety as well as how it could serve as a model for other states. In 2016, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation directing the establishment and maintenance of guidelines for school emergency response systems in conjunction with experts from the division of school building physical security and safety.

“This event will tie the need for improving the security of America’s K-12 public schools to real-life stories and expert perspectives. We also want to highlight what one state, Indiana, is doing to improve the safety of its schools,” added Boyd. “Indiana is a leader in the fight to improve school safety.”

The Alliance recently released a first-of-its-kind tool: An interactive map of state security policies and resources for K-12 public schools. The Alliance partnered with the Police Foundation and Dr. Erroll Southers of TAL Global to develop the online tool, which is intended to offer decision makers a place to easily review school safety and security best practices.

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Michigan Legislature OKs Using Tax for School Security

(AP) The Michigan Legislature has voted to let schools use special local taxes to upgrades their security and technology. The bill sent to Gov. Rick Snyder affects ‘sinking fund’ millages — local property taxes that fund major repairs and renovations to school buildings. (Read more . . .)

State News

OHIO

Despite concern voiced in opposition by security and safety experts and the many code officials at Ohio hearings, including the former superintendent from Chardon – Joe Bergant, the Ohio legislature has passed a bill to override current fire code requirements and allow barricade devices with limitations.  These devices do not comply with the current Ohio codes, the guidelines from the National Association of State Fire Marshals, or the recent report from the Ohio Board of Building Standards.

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