We are saddened by the recent gun violence in Nashville that took the lives of three students and three staff members, as well as the shooter herself. In light of that tragedy, and others like it, we offer the following tips for schools to increase campus safety. While none of us want to be naive, we also don’t want to live a life of paranoia. We must think, share (and listen to) feedback, do what we can do, be aware and be vigilant.
- Install a perimeter fence and/or controlled access points to prevent unauthorized entry: This can help prevent outsiders from gaining access to the school campus. Keep external doors closed and locked from the outside. Regularly check that gate locks are secure. Keep trees and bushes trimmed to help prevent someone from hiding out of sight.
- Utilize security cameras and monitoring systems to monitor school grounds: This can help identify potential threats and provide evidence if an incident occurs.
- Install bulletproof glass or reinforced doors in areas of high traffic.
- Install a secure entry system that requires visitors to identify themselves, prior to entry, and state their purpose for visiting the school: This can include measures such as a locked entrance door that can only be opened by school staff, or a buzzer system where visitors must be let in by a school official after providing identification. (Know that a criminal may visit in advance, as part of a planned school tour, to better understand the layout of classrooms and exit points.)
- Consider utilizing metal detectors or other screening equipment for all visitors: This can help prevent weapons from being brought onto school grounds.
- Implement a strict visitor policy where all visitors are required to sign in and wear a visible badge while on campus: This helps to ensure that anyone on school grounds has a legitimate reason to be there and can be easily identified. Staff should look for un-badged people and have them removed from campus immediately.
- Consider hiring security personnel or utilizing school resource officers (SROs) to provide additional security: Trained security personnel can help identify and respond to threats quickly. An officer’s vehicle can be clearly parked near the school entrance.
- Train staff and students in emergency response procedures such as active shooter drills, evacuation plans, and lockdowns: Regular training and practice can help ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
- Implement a buddy system, where students are paired up and responsible for looking out for each other during emergency situations: This can provide additional support and safety for students during a crisis.
- Implement a crisis communication plan to quickly alert parents and guardians of any emergency situations: Clear and effective communication is key during an emergency situation. The plan should include a backup communication method and communicator in the event of power or internet failure on campus, or if the main communicator is incapacitated.
- Provide training for staff and students on identifying and reporting suspicious behavior or activities: This can help identify potential threats before they become a danger. When applicable, and when not causing danger to a reporting party, publicly recognize the student/staff/parent who made a report. For example, a student found and reported a hole in the fence, and so the student is recognized in the school assembly.
- Implement a code word or phrase to quickly communicate emergencies without alarming students or staff: This can help ensure that everyone is aware of an emergency without causing panic.
- Conduct background checks on all school employees and volunteers: This can help ensure that those working with students do not pose a potential threat.
- Implement a zero-tolerance policy for any type of violence, bullying, or harassment: This can help create a safe and respectful learning environment for all students.
- Provide counseling services for students who may have experienced trauma or stress: This can help support students who may be struggling in the aftermath of an incident.
- Ensure that all staff and students are familiar with safe shelter areas and evacuation routes: Knowing where to go and what to do in an emergency can help minimize harm and save lives.
- Provide regular maintenance and upkeep for security equipment and systems: Regular maintenance can help ensure that security equipment is functioning properly when it is needed.
- Work with local law enforcement to develop a coordinated emergency response plan: A coordinated response can help ensure that all parties are working together effectively during an emergency.
- Conduct regular safety drills and exercises to ensure that staff and students are prepared for emergency situations: Regular practice can help ensure that everyone knows what to do and can act quickly and safely in an emergency.
- Create a culture of safety and awareness by promoting a positive and supportive school environment: By fostering a culture of safety, where everyone looks out for each other and takes potential threats seriously, students and staff can feel empowered to report any concerns or suspicious behavior.
- Conduct regular safety audits to identify potential security weaknesses in the school’s infrastructure. Much like a secret shopper, audits can help identify areas where additional security measures may be needed. Audits may be performed by an independent committee of volunteers and professionals who provide honest feedback of their findings.
Criminals are not always those with guns or knives. It might be an angry parent or an ex-spouse seeking to kidnap a child. Unfortunately, those with bad intentions have:
- Entered through an unlocked or unmonitored door
- Posed as a student, parent or staff member
- Broken windows or doors to gain entry
- Climbed fences or walls to access school grounds
- Taken advantage of open events or assemblies
- Used explosive devices to breach walls or doors
These topics are not enjoyable to discuss, but by taking the time to do so, and working harder every day, we can all help to keep students and staff safe on campus.
The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
— 2 Thessalonians 3:3
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