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I recently attended the 65th annual Arizona Association of School Business Officials (AASBO) conference with K-12 administrators from throughout the state.

While there, I asked the CIO of a large Arizona school district what he did. Without hesitation, he responded:  “My primary responsibility is the safety and security of the students entrusted to us.”

I was taken aback. I was expecting something about computers and connectivity. But his ultimate goal was the kids’ safety and security.

Parents concerned for their children’s safety at school
His concerns are shared by parents. In a recent PDK Poll, 34 percent of parents indicated that they fear for their child’s physical safety at school—a sharp increase from 2013 when that number was just 12 percent.

Certainly, recent school shootings play a part in these parents’ fears. But there’s a continuing pattern of day-to-day violence and threats—from bullying and fighting to assaults and destruction of school property to vaping and “Juuling”—that also play a role. Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):

  • 8 percent reported being in a physical fight on school property.
  • 6 percent reported that they did not go to school on one or more days because they felt unsafe on their way to or from or at school.
  • 1 percent reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife or club) on school property.
  • 2 percent reported being bullied on school property and 15.5 percent reported being bullied electronically.

See something, say something…do something
There was significant discussion about safety and security at the conference and the current “see something, say something” school safety campaign. The message is important, to be sure.

But how do we better involve kids in school safety and help them continue to get the word out?

My own kids attend a large Los Angeles area high school. Every morning, an administrator makes announcements over the public address system—the same way I received them twenty years ago! Parents also receive autodialed messages over the phone, as well as a monthly newsletter.

Compared to the available technologies, these communication methods are archaic—particularly for students who were raised on and are completely comfortable with technology.

Newer digital displays and software, for example—relatively inexpensive tools—can involve students and help them create and broadcast videos throughout the school.

3-point action plan for K-12 school safety
In the PDK Poll mentioned previously, an astonishing 72 percent of parents were “somewhat” or less than confident in their school’s security. Clearly, there’s much to be done to help increase parents’ confidence in physical school safety. This 3-point action plan for school safety is a great start.

  1. Assess the current threat environment: Get stakeholders involved in assessing the current threat level in your school or district. Develop criteria to assess and evaluate threats, and then determine what controls are currently being used. Use an “inside out” approach—starting from the inside of the school and working your way out to school grounds and the perimeter.
  2. Formalize a communications plan: Evaluate your current communications and determine ways to streamline and improve communications. Transform legacy communications systems into modernized communications that students will embrace. For example, instead of morning announcements over the PA system, consider adding them to student information systems or learning management systems. Or send SMS messages to students’ and parents’ mobile phones or devices.
  3. Perform a gap analysis: Find the gaps in your current security posture so you can take action. What aren’t you seeing on the video surveillance system? Can unauthorized persons walk onto school grounds and into your school without being detected? How long does it take to summon help? How quickly can you notify students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders of an emergency? Analyze where the gaps are and how you can fill them.

The Logicalis approach to K-12 school safety
Logicalis got its start in security and networking, and we now have a dedicated GovEd practice with considerable experience in K-12 education. We can work closely with you and your stakeholders—teachers, administrators, students, parents, school boards, law enforcement, and elected officials—to provide a thorough assessment of the current threat level, formalize a communications plan, and perform a gap analysis.

We’ll then provide objective advice on the best solution for your school or district using industry-leading access control, video surveillance, and mass notification technologies. Newer technologies can offer significantly better functionality than legacy equipment—for example, better images, more and expansive ways to notify, and automated door locks. Based on your needs, we’ll also add our award-winning services—from assessment and design to implementation and integration to training and support—for a complete solution.

So if the kids are concerned enough to stage a National School Walkout, shouldn’t schools make protecting those students their primary responsibility?

Download our K-12 school safety brief to learn more about how Logicalis can help you improve school safety for your students.

Adam Petrovsky is the GovEd Practice Leader for Logicalis US, responsible for defining go-to-market strategy for K-12, Higher Education, Local Government and State Government.