7 Ideas for Reducing the Risk of School Violence

The school shooting in Ohio in February once again reminded the PK-12 community that deadly violence can erupt anywhere. ASIS International responded to the tragedy with a webinar about concrete measures schools can take to reduce the risk of violence.

Paul Timm, a certified physical security professional (PSP), presented the webinar, entitled “School Security: Reducing The Risk of Violence.” School administrators, staff school security officers and school resource officers (SROs) attended.

President of Lemont, Ill.-based RETA Security, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in school security, Timm told the webinar audience: “We can significantly reduce today’s risk level.”

Timm proposed seven measures designed to do that.

  1. Form a safety and security committee: The committee would meet once at the beginning of each semester, says Timm. Representatives from across the community would attend: senior level administrators, school nurses, custodians, IT managers, transportation directors, students (above fifth grade) and others. Invite police, fire and EMT representatives, too. The committee would review policies regarding current risks and solicit information about emerging risks.
  2. Establish an anti-bullying program: Bullying, including cyber-bullying, can precipitate violence. A bullying prevention program should include measures for identifying and stopping bullies, counseling victims of bullies and teaching students safe practices at school and when using social media. Timm also recommends pointing students to several trusted adults, whom students can trust to deal with reports of bullying without revealing who reported the problem.
  3. Communications technology: While virtually all schools already have communications technology that will function in emergencies — intercoms and public address systems — emergencies today also require the immediate communications capabilities of two-way radios and mass notification systems that can keep parents informed.
  4. Access control and visitor management technology: “Change to electronic access control,” says Timm. “Rekeying locks is too expensive and time consuming. Electronic access control eliminates rekeying. You can also schedule when administrators, faculty and staff can enter the building. You can also scan the system’s audit trail and look for attempted entries that don’t fit the schedule.” Timm also recommends a “credential exchange” visitor management procedure: Meet visitors at the door, ask for photo IDs and provide visitors’ badges on colored breakaway lanyards that must be worn around the neck. Keep the photo IDs until visitors return and sign out.
  5. Video technology: Build a video surveillance system by first training cameras on the main entrances from inside the building. This provides a time and date stamp for everyone that enters. Next cover the populated areas of the building; then the less populated areas. Finally, move outside to the parking lots and exteriors. “Monitor areas where people are first,” Timm says. “Then cover exterior areas where auto thefts or vandalism might occur.”
  6. Emergency preparedness: “Since schools were first required to run fire drills, not one student has died in a safety-related fire,” Timm says. “Today, some states require both fire and lockdown drills. Good idea.” Timm also recommends developing a laminated crisis flip chart — two sides of one page only. Cover environmental emergencies like fires on one side and security emergencies on the other. List emergency protocols and contact information of first responders.
  7. Develop outside resources: You can find a host of school security resources online. There are websites devoted to stopping cyber-bullying, sex offender registries and grant programs to fund security programs. Track these resources down and use them. And be sure to visit your fire and police departments and ask for advice.