One year after Sandy Hook, the NYS School Boards Associated surveyed superintendents to find out how school security has changed. They received responses from 180 school chiefs (about a quarter).
The report, School Security in a Post-Sandy Hook World, is HERE.
Having visited quite a few schools around here during the last year, I can tell you that security upgrades vary greatly (more on that in a bit).
Not surprisingly, given all the time and money spent on security since the spring, 59 percent of superintendents said their schools are safer than a year ago. Also, 39.5 percent said things are about the same.
The most common measures taken in the last year: improved emergency response plans (77.7%); buzz-in systems at entrances (56.5%); additional security cameras (56%); “random police presence” (55.8%); key-card entry systems (42.2%); closed-circuit TV monitors (32.3%); and the hiring of school resource officers (usually police) (17.9%).
In addition, 5.3 percent said their schools installed bulletproof glass doors and 1 percent said they installed metal detectors.
When superintendents were asked to name the single most important measure in making schools safer, almost half cited school resource officers, security guards or random police presence. A quarter pointed to secure entranceways.
The biggest obstacle to enhancing security? You get one guess. Cost.
More than 40 percent said they did not add school resource officers because they could not afford them (18% said they did not need them). And almost half said they did not install bulletproof doors because of the expense (30% said they didn’t need them).
How much did districts spend in the past year on additional security measures? 75 percent spent up to $100,000. And 16.2 percent spent between $100,000 and $500,000.
The NYS School Boards Association has two recommendations.
The first is legislation that would provide a separate line of state aid for security. “While NYSSBA has always strongly advocated that state aid come mostly in the form of unrestricted aid rather than categorical aid, school safety is such an important issue that a dedicated funding stream is necessary.”
The second is also legislation, this time to exempt security expenses from property-tax levy cap calculations.
I’ve seen all sorts of security measures at schools I’ve visited. At one school, two men met me in the parking lot and radioed in that I was on my way — before I encountered two locked doors with intercoms. Several schools have taken my driver’s license and produced on-the-spot passes with my photo and license.
Just about all schools now have one entranceway for the public. And it is usually locked, requiring visitors to identify themselves and get buzzed in. Schools with a single open door always have someone waiting inside to check your ID and write out a pass (which was the most common approach before Sandy Hook).
There is no getting around the fact that schools with greater financial means have more extensive security. That’s the way it is.