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12.28.22 – SSI – Elizabeth Parks

Technology cannot guarantee flawless defense against security breaches and threats, but it can help reduce the chance of a dangerous situation occurring.

Since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, school safety and security have become a growing concern. Schools began the search for security measures to minimize the possibility of students and faculty facing lethal risk.

Data from the NCES shows that from 2000 until 2018, access control practices increased by roughly 20%, the use of a faculty badge system increased by 70%, and the implementation of security cameras increased by over 60% in schools across America.

According to Education Week, crime on school grounds has been reduced from 85% of public schools in 2010 to 77% in 2019. This statistic supports the addition of standard security measures being implemented in schools; however, this type of security hasn’t been able to defend from, nor respond, to violence effectively.

The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) highlighted data from the 2017-18 school year reporting 71% of schools experienced at least one violent incident and 21% experienced a serious violent incident. Over the 2019-20 school year, NCES found that 70% of schools experienced one or more violent incidents on their campus while 25% experienced a serious violent incident.

While these data points are from different organizations, the numbers show a 4% increase in serious violent incidents even though the use of surveillance cameras, access control and other security systems on school grounds are at all-time highs.

There are serious concerns about security at schools in America and how to respond with effective solutions to reduce incidents and ensure a safe environment. How police and emergency services react to threats is an area of significant focus.

Police response is based on the available information at the time. Increased volume of information can hinder response unless that information is relevant, accurate and timely. Rapid and efficient response requires immediate access to the right information about the incident and the location of individuals.

The top 10 states with the highest number of threats and incidents mirror the top 10 most populous states with one exception, Georgia. While Georgia is a top 10 population state, it is not on the top 10 most violent list; Virginia takes its place.

Moving Beyond Lockdowns

Faculty and students rehearse scenarios to prepare for a potentially lethal security breach. This lockdown practice normally consists of these actions:

  • Locking door
  • Turning off lights
  • Barricading the doors
  • Staying silent

Lockdown drills alone are not the solution to this ongoing issue, as Massachusetts Teachers Associations President Max Page states, “Active shooter training that involves students is traumatic and unnecessary. It reinforces a culture of fear and creates a false sense of security.”

School administrators are often between a rock and a hard place: they want effective drills and are concerned about traumatizing students unnecessarily.

Evolving school security technology offers increasingly capable assistance to respond more effectively. Advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can identify suspicious activity, spot dangerous items, recognize patterns and organize data/evidence. These are powerful abilities to improve security and response times, particularly when it can occur without the aid of an operator.

Access control systems allow people to skip the step of keeping track of doors being locked. Access control systems also allow people to not worry whether doors have been locked or not. Panic devices enable emergencies to be reported without explanation. In some cases, technology is more efficient and effective than humans. In the Uvalde tragedy, a door to the school that would normally be locked was left open, allowing the gunman to enter with ease. A machine locking system might have prevented that.

Time will tell how these new technologies perform. School security technology is advantageous, but currently, more metrics are needed to evaluate tech used for school safety. Technology cannot guarantee flawless defense against security breaches and threats, but it can help reduce the chance of a dangerous situation occurring and create efficiencies in emergency response.

Elizabeth Parks is President and CMO of Parks Associates. Download Parks Associates whitepaper “Leveraging Tech to Improve Safety and Security in Schools” to explore market insights on how schools can better respond to security threats by utilizing quick-acting access control and emergency response paired with communicated intel.