Schools Included as Part of Infrastructure Spending Discussions

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to President Trump ahead of a meeting on infrastructure. Among the priorities identified in the letter was school infrastructure. Pelosi and Schumer wrote:

“To truly be a gamechanger for the American people, we should go beyond transportation and into broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives.”

Noting and promoting schools as essential infrastructure is vital for accelerating the initiatives and updates needed to protect the nation’s students, teachers, and other school employees. There has been some legislative movement in Washington. As Education Week recently reported:

House Democrats have introduced legislation that would authorize federal aid for school repair, construction, and modernization. Earlier this year, the House education committee backed legislation to provide $100 billion for K-12 infrastructure, including $70 billion in direct federal spending. 

The House bill may change, and if passed, the Senate’s potential response is unknown. Nevertheless, school infrastructure is a priority, and it is a step in the right direction to consider schools among the country’s most valuable assets.

Read the full letter.

A Note on Door Safety Solutions from Michele Gay

At a recent school meeting, a parent was excited to share a revelation: perhaps those door-jamming mechanisms in hotels – the ones that swing into place – could be an easy, affordable way to secure doors at schools. While I love hearing suggestions from parents (after all, we all have a role to play in school safety), I had to explain why this type of solution actually puts students in danger, rather than protecting them. It broke my heart to dampen her enthusiasm, but I had to educate her about the importance of building and fire safety codes, Americans With Disabilities compliance, and unintended usage of barricade devices.

Michele GayWe have so much more work to do to educate parents, teachers, and the entire school community about door safety. Thankfully, with the generous support of the Door Safety & Security Foundation, we have facts to tackle door lock myths and misconceptions. Help us educate others by sharing this post or my recent blog post and video. Let’s eliminate confusion and hone in on safety solutions that are legal and time-tested.

And please, let’s keep talking. I love hearing how you have been able to make a difference in your community. So whether we meet at an event, chat over social media, or exchange emails, we want to hear from you. Because of you, our movement is gaining momentum, and together, we are honoring Joey and Emilie by helping schools improve their crisis prevention, response and recovery capabilities.

Thank you for your time, and for helping us raise awareness for this important cause.

Michele Gay, Co-founder and executive director, Safe and Sound Schools

Indiana’s Emergency Response Guidelines for School Safety

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

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

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

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

Collaborative Effort

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

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

The Product

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

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

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

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

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

Indiana’s Emergency Response Guidelines for School Safety

Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classroom Barricade Devices: A Dangerous Violation of Federal Laws

Most classroom barricade devices violate ADA, NFPA and other federal codes that are designed to enable individuals with disabilities to quickly evacuate a dangerous situation.

Some State Codes Violate Federal Law

Although the building and fire code community has clearly ruled that these barricade devices do not meet the necessary egress and fire safety requirements, their seemingly blatant violations of federal laws have yet to be litigated. The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and sets standards for accessible access and egress. Classroom doors nationwide are required to comply with the ADA, and it is unclear how several states have adopted codes to permit use of devices that are so obviously in conflict with a federal law.

“When discussing school classroom security and safety, the topic of accessibility for students with disabilities unfortunately usually merits only a second thought,” says Jerry Heppes Sr., CAE, chief executive officer of the Door Security and Safety Foundation. “Additionally, ADA standards for accessible design are often only thought of as providing access for persons with disabilities. But the reality is, especially when it comes to classroom security, it is equally important to provide safe egress for those with disabilities from the classroom. Any classroom door security device must, by federal law, provide that safe egress as defined by the operational requirements of the ADA standard.”

In addition to the ADA requirements, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, mandates that people with disabilities have equal access to programs, services, activities and facilities that receive Federal financial assistance, such as schools. It states: “Each facility or part of a facility which is altered by, on behalf of, or for the use of a recipient after the effective date of this part in a manner that affects or could affect the usability of the facility or part of the facility shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be altered in such manner that the altered portion of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by handicapped persons.”

The installation of a barricade device on a classroom door is clearly discriminatory to those with physical or visual impairments, it impedes egress, is not located 34 to 48 inches above the floor, requires more than one action to release the door and as a result is in clear violation of standards and laws regarding accessibility.

Not Being Code Compliant Can Be Costly

“As the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission stated in their final report, there is not one documented incident of an active shooter breaching a locked [interior] door,” explains Williams. “In other words, we have code compliant solutions that work and provide both security and life safety for all building occupants.”

Whether school administrators choose to adjust security protocols incorporating existing locks, install classroom security locks or invest in electrified locks that can be secured remotely, code-compliant solutions are available. Not only will schools not save money by installing inexpensive barricade devices, they expose themselves to a number of new liabilities as well as potential fines for ADA violations.

“If you can’t get people out of a building, how is that safer?” asks Decker. “These devices can have that unintended consequence. We believe that all of these barricade devices fail to take into account the impact they could have on people with disabilities.”

The recent changes made to the model codes should help establish more consistent requirements for classroom security. However, when working to increase the security of an educational facility or any type of building, it’s vital to ensure safe access and egress for all occupants during any type of emergency — not just active shooters and terrorism, but also fire, severe weather, natural disasters and other types of emergencies that schools are statistically far more likely to face.

States must adopt standards for securing school facilities that meet all relevant laws and codes. Those standards must create secure environments while ensuring the safety of all occupants — and they should do so without turning our schools into prisons. Contrary to what the purveyors of barricades may claim, those standards can be easily implemented, affordably, using legal and code-compliant hardware.

It is irresponsible to make it difficult for anyone, regardless of their ability, to flee a hazardous situation. It is equally irresponsible to allow the use of locking devices that could be deployed as barricades by someone seeking to do harm to others. Schools house our most vulnerable population, our children, and their safety should not be jeopardized by misguided efforts to enhance security.

Robert Boyd is the executive director of the Secure Schools Alliance. He can be reached at The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributed to Campus Safety magazine.

Calls For National School Security Guidance Grow As State Requirements Scrutinized

School security advocates demanded more guidance from the government as findings of an ongoing study on state school security requirements revealed minimal standards that vary widely.

Advocates called for the creation of an independent federal school security board or National Center of Excellence during an event on Capitol Hill June 28. They stressed that such an organization would be a good way to organize guidelines and best practices for people making school security decisions.

“A National Center of Excellence for School Safety could be that hub for research, training, intellectual exchange and a place where people can go to ask questions and get resources,” Dr. Erroll Southers of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California said at the Security Industry Association’s GovSummit event.

Study Shows Inconsistencies in State K-12 School Security Standards

The demands followed the release of preliminary findings from a comprehensive analysis of school security requirements. The study, which is being conducted by the Police Foundation, shows only 15 states had some type of school facility security requirements prior to the Parkland, Florida shooting (see map on top of article). The study also shows that many state legislatures are actively discussing school security measures.

Ben Gorban, the policy analyst for the Police Foundation who presented the findings, said that even among states with security requirements, those requirements varied significantly in focus and few addressed school facility security “in a meaningful way.”

Additionally, the study found that very few of the states with requirements have outlined clear repercussions if schools don’t meet those requirements.

The Police Foundation, a national non-profit and non-partisan organization, concluded that other issues with existing requirements include:

  1. Many lack clarity and specificity
  2. Many do not include implementation steps for districts to follow
  3. They can be very difficult to locate online for administrators and the public

“We learned school security legislation is difficult to find,” Gorban said. “A lot of school safety standards start as fire safety, so when you go to look for it, it’s often still in the fire code; so if you’re a teacher or parent, you may not know where to look for that.”

The number of states with school security requirements may be discouraging to some, but since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Police Foundation found state legislatures across the country have begun considering the issue.

School security standards

But despite that activity, very few states have actually passed legislation since February 14.

The study also found that 20 states had general exercises, toolkits and training prior to the Parkland shooting but far fewer had publicly-available guidance for schools to follow to secure their campuses.

school security laws

Gorban says there’s been a lot of focus on safety initiatives like anti-bullying and anti-drugs but not as much on school security regulations.

“There has to be a clear distinction between what safe schools are and what secure schools are, and right now legislation on what secure schools are is lacking.”

The Police Foundation does not advocate for any particular policies.

The Secure Schools Alliance (SSA), a non-profit group of security industry, law enforcement, public safety and education officials, organized the Capitol Hill event and funded the Police Foundation’s research.

For the research, The Police Foundation reviewed publicly-available materials including:

  • Legislation and proposals
  • Guidelines, assessment tools, toolkits, resources, etc.
  • Open-source media outlets

The Push For School Security Guidance

Organizations like SSA are increasingly pushing for a national conversation between education officials, security industry leaders and government agencies. Robert Boyd, SSA’s executive director, has called for the creation of a School Safety Center in every state. Some recent milestones in those areas include:

Scott Breor, the director of the Protective Security Coordination Division of the Department of Homeland Security, assured the GovSummit’s attendees that government officials are working hard to support K-12 schools.

“We are definitely not waiting for the shoe to drop,” Breor said with respect to providing security guidance for schools. “We take this very seriously.”

Tim Eckersley, the president of Allegion, which partners with SSA, said at the event that a national board should be investigating and learning from each one of the recent tragedies in U.S. schools.

“If you’re in school and worried about whether or not you’re safe, there’s no possible way to learn,” Eckersley said. “We can make that happen. We can make schools better than they are. I know that we can do better, and it is our moral obligation as an industry to do that.”

Are K12 Schools Really Safe?

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