Using All Resources Available

Imagine this: You are the head of security at a top-secret military base. Your task — to protect the cache of weapons stored at the base. As is increasingly common today, there are many terrorist groups who would like to steal or destroy these weapons; so you must use all of the resources you have at your disposal to prevent this from happening. You have highly trained and well-equipped security guards patrolling the facility, expensive and advanced surveillance equipment covering entrances, as well as thousands of additional cameras placed all over the facility. If you fail to use any of these resources, you would be fired for incompetence in the real world. So, why do we not use the same obvious philosophy in school security?

As you may have guessed by now, there is a parallel being drawn between this imaginary circumstance and protecting schools. The highly trained guards are security personnel such as school police officers or hall monitors and teachers, the expensive surveillance equipment are cameras at entrances, and the thousands of additional cameras are students.

In security, risk minimization is everything. You can never completely eliminate the possibility of a school shooting or other types of breakdowns in security, but you can make the system as secure as possible by using your resources efficiently and using them cohesively, or as a unit. The most important resource administrators miss when factoring in all of their options to make school security more effective is the student body.

How much help can students be? After all, they are only kids; they wouldn’t know the first thing about security, right? Possibly, but why not invest a little in training and awareness? Even if all that is achieved is a slight increase in awareness, is that not worth holding a brief meeting twice a year to inform the students about security measures being taken in school? Why not take it just a couple steps further and not only make students aware of security issues, but turn them into problem solvers?

Think about the benefit that thousands of watchful eyes could offer. It could be the same as adding hundreds of sometimes cocky, unofficial security guards going through puberty. Joking aside, however, keeping students out of the loop when it comes to security is not only dangerous, but it is downright wasteful.

Okay, I’d like to address some of the inevitable concerns that are flooding into your mind right now. Things like: To what extent students should be involved, how to avoid students taking advantage of their knowledge and/or how to most effectively involve the student body.

Some may be reading this and thinking, Of course he’d like students to be involved, he is one himself, and, He is clearly overestimating the amount of good students can do for security. While I understand these sentiments, don’t discount the rest of the article yet.

Before you dismiss the idea of involving students, let me speak to your unease. Contrary to popular belief, students in high school are not all ignorant, self-absorbed, hormone-machines. Think of all of the things a high school student can do better than you. They can cheat better, use and abuse technology more easily, keep up with all the latest gadgets and gizmos and STILL do everything and more than you did in high school. Think of all the future leaders of America: the CEO’s, the engineers, the computer whizzes. Students are NOT incapable of coming up with new ideas. In fact, they are able to do things, especially with technology, that you would not believe.

Now, with all of those great things that students can do, I’m not disputing the fact that there are some that will not achieve or might even work against the greater good — such is life. But you have to realize that the overgeneralization of students is not only a fallacy, but demonstrates ignorance towards their capabilities and the possibilities that can come from involving them.

With that immediate concern spoken to, I’d like to take a closer look at how to specifically involve students in the security program. And, if you are thinking I am advocating letting the students run the security at your school, then think again. While I think that students are valuable as detectors of security problems and perhaps can think of ideas to improve security, their lack of expertise in the area is enough to limit their participation to a few basic things.

One: When holding an assembly at your school, don’t beat them over the head with security, but let the students know they can help out by keeping their eyes open. This will serve two purposes: 1) You will demonstrate that the school is concerned about and devoted to better security, and 2) You will increase awareness. As a rule, the first step in creating a more secure school environment is to abandon the “Mayberry” lie that it cannot happen to us. When you tell people you are committed to a secure school environment, you are adopting an active security mentality rather than a passive one. Active and aware students, parents and teachers are far better prepared to recognize security threats, know how to handle them and respond to emergencies more quickly.

Two: Let them know about some of the basic features and benefits of your security program. In security, a lot of people think that their big fancy security systems will help catch the bad guys and, while this might be true, sometimes the fancy systems are actually more useful in deterring potential crimes. Educating students about your systems will provide them with a better idea of your dedication to security and they will also be far less likely to attempt something they might regret. Depending on your school’s particular layout and size, you can decide whether or not you want to give specific details about your security measures and how students can help, or just give a general overview to keep them in the loop.

Three: Organize a student security committee, which could meet with faculty and administrators to discuss concerns the students have about security.
Again, I’m not advocating making this some sort of daily or even weekly meeting. Obviously, there are limitations in the amount of security problems that students can encounter in everyday situations. However, this can be a simple and effective process to bring new ideas, problems and solutions to the table. Think of it as adding another unofficial security task force. At the very least, you can involve students through the use of anonymous surveys and tip lines.

As I noted earlier, there are students who might use certain knowledge of security to perpetrate crimes more easily. The solution is simple — don’t give students unnecessary information. In other words, don’t tell everyone where every camera is, the times and routes of hall monitors, the passwords to alarm systems or how to access certain areas of the building. I know that this should go without saying, but students are capable of using basic knowledge of your security system to facilitate their own ends. If you keep their know-how basic and fundamental, there is nothing to worry about that shouldn’t have been worried about already.

So, now that you have been educated by one of those ignorant, self-absorbed, hormone-machines, perhaps you have come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to use all the resources that are available to you. Maybe you’ve decided to say, "What the heck, it’s worth a go," and are now ready to take the initiative to organize a more effective security program that involves students instead of just considering them as the “enemy.” At the very least, my hope is for you to consider the impact that students can have in regards to security troubleshooting and participation. If you really see no sense in engaging the largest group of people on your campus, then maybe you should disregard everything students have to offer, including this security article.

David Timm is a student who writes about school safety issues. In addition to writing, his other interests include baseball, playing guitar and youth group leadership.