Insights, Lessons from CSSC School Safety and Mental Health Briefing

On April 11, 2019, the Secure Schools Alliance co-hosted a briefing with the Congressional School Safety Caucus, “The Importance of Mental Health in Comprehensive School Safety and Security Efforts.” The panel briefing and discussion was moderated by Alliance Board Member Michele Gay.

“In the current climate, when we hear the term school safety, many people immediately think of school shootings, high-profile mass shootings like recently in Parkland and ours in Sandy Hook. These are horrific and even one is unacceptable. But school shootings are actually statistically rare, and we’ve learned through our work…that the unique safety needs of each community are unique.”

The wide-ranging discussion touched on topics including:

  • The most pressing school safety issues beyond school shootings
  • Effective district-level policies and programs
  • Teacher and staff resources and training
  • Real-world examples of best practices in school safety and security
  • The important interaction between SROs and mental health professionals

“Culture of care is what comes to mind,” said Gay during the discussion. “We’re cultivating this shared culture of taking care of one another and making sure that each and every child and staff member in our community is truly safe, psychologically and physically.”

Watch the full video of the CSSC briefing below.

The Importance of Mental Health in Comprehensive School Safety and Security Efforts

The Secure Schools Alliance, in cooperation with the Congressional School Safety Caucus, is co-hosting a briefing, “The Importance of Mental Health in Comprehensive School Safety and Security Efforts.” Partner organizations include Safe and Sound Schools, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Security Industry Association. The briefing will be held at 12 PM in Room 2212 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

To attend, please RSVP online by April 9.

“We must look at school health, safety and security holistically, as they are interconnected,” said Alliance Executive Director Robert Boyd. “Although the Alliance focuses on improving the physical security of K-12 schools, we are excited to join with our partners to brief the Congressional School Safety Caucus on the critical role mental health professionals play in our schools.”

The discussion will be led by Michele Gay, co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools and an Alliance Board Member. After losing her daughter, Josephine Grace, on December 14, 2012, she chose to take action as an advocate for improved school security and safety in our nation’s schools. Michele’s background as a teacher and involved parent, along with her personal loss and post-tragedy perspective, uniquely position her to help school communities prevent tragedy and better prepare and respond in an emergency in their own schools.

Other briefing participants
include:

Edward A. Clarke: Chief Safety Officer for Montgomery County Public Schools, the
largest school district in Maryland and 14th largest in the country.
Prior to this position, Mr. Clarke served as the Executive Director of the
Maryland Center for School Safety and played a key role in the passage of the
comprehensive Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018. 

Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach: Nationally Certified School Psychologist and the Director of
Policy and Advocacy at the National Association of School Psychologists. Prior
to assuming this role, Dr. Strobach was a school psychologist in Loudoun County
Public Schools, where she also served as a member of the District PBIS
Coordination Team and the District Crisis Intervention Team. 

Dr.
Christina Conolly, NCSP
: Director for
Psychological Services with the Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville,
MD. In this role, she also oversees the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program,
Trauma-Informed Schools, and the Behavioral Threat Assessment
initiatives. 

Paul Kelly: Principal of Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village,
Illinois. In 2018, Mr. Kelly was named the Illinois High School Principal
of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association and was selected by the
National Association of Secondary School Principals as one of three finalists
for 2019 National Principal of the Year. 

Benjamin S. Fernandez,MS Ed: School psychologist working as the Coordinator of Prevention Services for Loudoun County Public Schools, where he coordinates psychological services and division-wide mental health programs for general education and special education students. Mr. Fernandez also manages the coordination of crisis teams and is a PREPaRE master trainer. 

Download and share the briefing invitation (PDF) with your network. Join us!

About Safe and Sound Schools
Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders.

About NASP
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) represents more than 25,000 school psychologists, graduate students, and related professionals throughout the United States and 25 other countries. NASP works to advance effective practices to improve students’ learning, behavior, and mental health.

About NASSP
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization for principals and other school leaders across the United States, seeking to transform education through school leadership.

About AASA
The School Superintendents Association (AASA) is the premier association for school system leaders and serves as the national voice for public education and district leadership on Capitol Hill.

About SIA
The Security Industry Association (SIA) is the leading trade association for global security solution providers, nearly 1,000 innovative member companies representing thousands of security leaders and experts who shape the future of the security industry.

Consider the Student Perspective in School Security

By Jake Glacer

A little more than a year ago, on February 14, 2018, I experienced a mass shooting firsthand inside room 1213 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, new security measures have been put in place at my high school, but from a student’s perspective, there is a long way to go. The lesson is not necessarily that Stoneman Douglas needs to do a better job of securing its campus (it does), but also, that all schools need to listen to student input and feedback when implementing school safety plans.

This is important because what is intended is not always the reality.

At Stoneman Douglas, nothing has really changed. When we started the school year, there were 18 security guards, including school police officers and campus monitors. One of their tasks is to check everyone’s student or teacher ID card at one of several entrances before they are allowed inside. It seems like a good idea, but the reality is that IDs are not always checked and this lackluster approach leaves us with many vulnerabilities and a false sense of security.

When I drive into school, myself and everyone in my car must show a guard our IDs. There have been many times when I drove past guards who seemed uninterested in whether we were actually students who belonged at the school. I have forgotten my ID from time to time, and the guard always lets me through the gate to get a new one from the front office. What is the purpose of having the guard checking IDs if I can get into the parking lot without an ID?

The entrance I use to get into school has lately been better guarded, as they placed a new campus monitor who looks at each and every individual’s ID. But this wasn’t always the case, and it’s not the case elsewhere on the campus. At an event after school, for example, we needed our IDs to get through the nearest gate. I was with three friends, and two of them did not have their IDs. My friend and I who did walked in, went to another entrance that was completely unguarded and unlocked it to let our two friends in.

Another major problem that still has not been addressed is checking backpacks. Stoneman Douglas implemented clear backpacks for a short period after the shooting, and it came with a lot of backlash from students and parents. Over the last year, friends and I have been able to walk past guards at entrances while carrying large bags that are supposed to be inspected. In one example, my friend was bringing in a large bag of supplies for a project. We both walked right into school and past two guards who didn’t say a word.

When the shooting happened in 2018, my school had no protocol in place for such an event. It made a chaotic event even more chaotic. Now there are designated safe corners in all of the classrooms, and students know where to go in an emergency. But at the same time, in the new portable classroom buildings, there is nowhere to hide. There is a window on each side, one of them being big enough to view the entire classroom from outside. Sitting in one of these classrooms, I question every single day (and so do the teachers) why nothing has been done to make these new classrooms safer.

This kind of activity has been going on ever since February 14. There are more people around the school but not much more security. It seems to me this is more of a human error than a security error. And this is the main concern I have with the future development of school security.

In a school that has experienced a mass shooting, you would think that security would be much more important, more thought through and more consistently applied. So how much more lax is security at schools that have not experienced mass violence? And more troubling, are schools even aware whether their school safety measures are actually being implemented?

Deciding how to secure a school campus is only the first step in making a school safer. The next step is ensuring those security measures are actually being used. That takes monitoring and feedback over time, and all schools need to proactively and regularly talk with the people most affected by school security: the students and teachers.

Jake Glacer is a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Alliance Board Members on Florida’s ‘Safe-School Officer’ Implementation

Two Secure Schools Alliance board members recently spoke with the Washington Post’s Kayla Epstein about the Florida law requiring schools in the state to employ a “safe-school officer” to guard against active shooters. A school in Manatee County, Florida, hired and armed two combat veterans, which has sparked debate over how best to secure schools.

Alliance Board Member Dr. Erroll Southers told the Post:

“I have to be honest, I have never conducted a [school] assessment where this level of deter and defend was necessary…I teach in Israel, I teach in France, places where terrorism is an issue. I’ve not seen this anywhere, not in an academic and an educational environment.”

Importantly, Florida’s mandated safe-school officers are not necessarily school resource officers. Alliance Board Member Mo Canady, who is also the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), told the Post:

“The guardian concept, the civilian in there, I get it, and I understand why they might go to that length, being in that part of the state, where they’ve had one of the most horrific shootings ever. It doesn’t surprise me…But it’s not necessarily what we would recommend. We would rather see sworn law enforcement officers, well trained, tactically sound, in those situations.”

Read the full article, “A Florida school’s answer to campus shootings? Combat veterans with semiautomatic rifles and Glocks.”

Police Foundation Releases New Reports on Averted School Violence

The Police Foundation recently released two studies delivering findings from the Averted School Violence (ASV) database. The Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies, in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department COPS Office, implemented the ASV database to provide a platform for sharing information about averted incidents of violence in institutions of elementary, secondary, and higher education. The ASV project defines an incident of averted school violence as a violent attack planned with or without the use of a firearm that was prevented before any injury or loss of life occurred.

A Preliminary Report on the Police Foundation’s Averted School Violence Database

The preliminary report analyzes 51 averted incidents of school violence selected from the ASV database to begin to improve our understanding of averted school attacks. The report begins with a case study of one averted attack and then details findings on the 51 averted incidents in the study. It concludes with recommendations for law enforcement and school administration to improve school safety. Read the full report.

A Comparison of Averted and Completed School Attacks from the Averted School Violence Database

As a companion to A Preliminary Report on the Police Foundation’s Averted School Violence Database, this report compares and analyzes 51 completed acts of school violence with 51 averted incidents from the ASV database. It includes findings on the demographics of individuals who plan attacks, victims’ demographics in completed attacks, and community characteristics. The report also provides important recommendations to minimize school violence and improve student and school safety. Read the full report.

DHS Releases K-12 Active Shooter Exercise Starter Kits

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) has released Exercise Starter Kits for the K-12 community focused on an active shooter incident as part of the Campus Resilience (CR) Program. The Exercise Starter kits were developed in support of the Department’s school safety efforts, including its work with the Federal Commission on School Safety.

The CR Program’s Exercise Starter Kits are self-conducted tabletop exercises (TTX) that provide school districts and schools with a set of scalable tools to develop a TTX that can be tailored to validate or update their existing emergency operations plans, policies, and procedures, while also identifying issues, gaps, and areas for improvement in response to an active shooter incident.

The K-12 Exercise Starter Kits are currently available at the elementary, middle/junior high, and high school levels. Each Exercise Starter Kit includes a set of planning documents that contain pre-populated exercise content that aligns with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program’s (HSEEP) methodology and principles. The kits include:

  • An Exercise Conduct Briefing for presentation during the TTX
  • A Situation Manual to provide background information on the TTX, scenario content, as well as discussion questions for participants
  • A Facilitator Guide for assisting facilitators in delivering the TTX
  • A Participant Feedback Form Template for players to provide candid feedback on the TTX
  • An After-Action Report Template for summarizing key strength and areas for improvement following the TTX

The launch represents the first phase of the K-12 ESKs. The new K-12 kits are a part of the CR Program’s other suite of Exercise Starter Kits, which are designed for institutions of higher education and focus on a cyber breach, hurricane, and active shooter incidents.

Requests to obtain the new starter kits can be made on the DHS ESK website. Learn more in ESK overview below.

DHS ESK Starter Kit for K-12 community

Statement on Federal School Safety Commission’s 2018 Final Report

Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety_cover

On December 18, 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety’s final report was released, proposing best practices and policy recommendations for improving school safety. The Alliance focuses on improving security infrastructure, security technology and life safety systems as part of a holistic approach to stopping school violence.

“The Commission’s final report contains a range of topics and findings, not all of which are in the Alliance’s purview,” said Secure Schools Alliance Executive Director Robert Boyd. “To be clear, the Alliance is not endorsing the full report. Indeed, many of our partners may voice opposition to aspects of this report as their expertise dictates, and we support our partners in their potential critiques. Nonetheless, there are parts of the report that we do endorse.”

The Alliance fully endorses the Commission’s language and recommendations in Chapter 16, Best Practices for School Building Security. Keeping intruders from our schools is an essential first step in preventing school violence, and the Alliance applauds the commission’s support for code and legal compliance of all school security solutions. The Alliance specifically thanks DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Infrastructure Protection Scott Breor for his leadership in drafting this section of the report.

“The final report from the Federal Commission on School Safety is expansive,” said Alliance Board Member Dr. Erroll G. Southers, who is also the Director of the Safe Communities Institute at the University of Southern California. “While the report contains best practices and recommendations that could be effective in preventing school violence, there are other problematic suggestions that give one reason to pause. While the Alliance does not endorse this report in full, we recognize that stopping school violence is a complex, multifaceted challenge. Defining the most effective methods to stop school violence will require further research, continued collaboration between the public, non-profit, academic and private sectors, and an enduring allegiance to the safety of the nation’s students.”

Beyond the Alliance’s specific focus area, it also supports ideas in report chapters 5 and 19.

  • Chapter 5, Using Suspicious Activity Reporting and Threat Assessments to Enhance School Safety, emphasizes the importance of anonymous reporting systems and threat assessments, such as Colorado’s Safe2Tell, founded by Susan Payne. Providing a method for assessing threats, as well as a safe, anonymous way for students and community members to share concerns with authorities, are key components in stopping school violence.
  • Chapter 19, Active Shooter Preparedness and Mitigation, focuses on training and awareness. Safe and Sound Schools co-founder and Alliance Board Member Michele Gay has long-argued for the need to train K-12 students and teachers to understand the types of suspicious behaviors that should be reported via anonymous reporting systems.

The arguments in Chapter 19 should help jump-start that important training effort. The chapter also points to the new DHS Active Shooter Table Top Exercises, developed by DHS’ Office of Academic Engagement, as well as other training available for specific sectors. However, the chapter fails to mention NFPA 3000, the new standard for community-wide Active Shooter Hostile Event Response. If we are to effectively address mass violence in our schools and communities, we must engage the entire community and train together, rather than doing so in silos.

Finally, the Alliance commends the leadership of Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais, who led this effort by carefully engaging and soliciting input from a variety of credible sources. In search of holistic solutions, his inclusive and engaging leadership is a model for public, private, non-profit and academic collaboration going forward.

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 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.