Cost-Effective Solutions for School Security

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, school security consultants and vendors are recommending new system products and enhanced safety procedure plans.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult for school administrators to assess the value and necessity of these products in the midst of the charged national reaction to the Sandy Hook events.  There are valuable resources that can help protect the students at your school and your budget.

The Domestic Security Office of the Pennsylvania State Police offers just such a valuable resource in the form of a free Risk and Vulnerability Assessment that includes a comprehensive examination of a school’s physical facilities and operational procedures.  The school evaluations focus on a variety of safety procedures and protocols; each assessment is carried out by a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Team from the State Police.  This highly specialized team works in tandem with school administrators to develop or enhance each school’s comprehensive security plan.  Pennsylvania schools are encouraged to call and schedule their assessments as soon as possible.  At the time of this publication, there was approximately a two-month wait for assessments.  Upon contacting the Domestic Security Office, however, school administrators are immediately provided with materials on how they can begin improving their school’s security.  More information can be found on the Pennsylvania State Police website at:  http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=4451&&PageID=459156&level=2&css=L2&mode=2.

Lockdown drills are an easy and effective way of enhancing comprehensive school security plans.  Current Pennsylvania regulations only require schools to conduct one monthly fire drill and two annual bus evacuation drills; lockdown drills are not required by law.  At least one Pennsylvania lawmaker is trying to change this policy.  Incited by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, State Representative Sid Michaels introduced legislation that would mandate periodic lockdown drills at elementary and secondary schools.  In support of his policy, the State Representative noted that fire drills are fundamentally different than lockdown drills: “Where fire drills are designed to get children out of the school building in an orderly manner, a lockdown drill is designed to lock children in safe areas of the school in order to protect them in the event of a threat to their security.”  His proposal asserts that current Pennsylvania regulations do not adequately provide for many potential threats.  A description of the proposed legislation can be found here:  http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20130&cosponId=11513.

Most security commentators note that Sandy Hook Elementary School had a relatively intensive safety plan prior to the shootings.  The school had lockdown drills that trained students to seek shelter and remain quiet in the midst of an emergency.  A recently installed security system locked school entrances after 9:30 a.m., requiring visitors to ring a bell, produce identification, and sign-in.  This intensive system failed to adequately protect students and faculty at Sandy Hook.  Moving forward from this tragedy, schools must recognize the need to regularly assess school security policies.  To begin this process, administrators can schedule a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and plan additional lockdown drills.  Taking these steps now can result in lives saved later.  For more information on reducing your school’s vulnerability and liability, please call the Nicolson Law Group. 

The information herein is provided for consumer educational purposes only.  The statements contained herein are general statements of law, as of the date stated, and there may be exceptions that are not set forth below, or changes due to later legislative developments and/or newer case law.  The Nicolson Law Group does not suggest that any provision contained herein will or must apply to any specific issue or case.  For legal information and advice for any particular matter, you are encouraged to consult advice from one of Nicolson Law Group’s licensed attorneys.