Statement of Principles on School Facility Safety and Security
Therefore, consistent with these objectives, we have developed the following principles regarding school facility safety and security:
(i) Schools are a vital part of our national critical infrastructure and need to be protected accordingly. Nationally, there are about 130,000 K-12 public schools, serving roughly 56 million students and over 6 million teachers and support staff. School campuses occupy over 2 million acres of public land and about 7.5 billion sq. ft of built space. The average age of school facilities is nearly 50 years according to the National Council on School Facilities, yet K-12 public schools represent the second largest infrastructure outlay behind highways. School facilities are recognized as critical infrastructure in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Infrastructure Protection Plan, and schools are a focal point of refuge and recovery in times of emergency and a place of joy, pride, and accomplishment for communities.
(ii) Elected leaders have a responsibility to take action to assist efforts to ensure schools are safe and secure from violence, threats, and anyone who seeks to do harm to students and those who care for them. We recognize the plague of violence affecting our schools and call for our nation and communities everywhere to come together to protect our children and those who care for them.
(iii) States should encourage schools to implement appropriate school safety measures and standards for securing school facilities according to best practices, and provide financial assistance that enables them to so. Such practices relating to physical security are catalogued in the federal clearinghouse SchoolSafety.gov and include the Guidelines for K-12 Safety and Security from the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), which are also recommended under the Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice. Fewer than half of states have given any direction to local schools and school districts regarding solutions for securing their facilities that are based on experience, proven technologies, or best practices. Nonetheless, many states have begun providing grant funding specifically for school security improvements. While most decisions should be localized, it is incumbent on states to assist local schools with resources, including financial assistance, and best practices alike.
(iv) Security solutions should be safe, affordable, and proven. A layered approach to security, from the district level down to the classroom, is essential to addressing a broad range of threats, to deter, detect, or delay, and respond if other layers or bypassed or breached. Needed solutions range from the simple to the complex. We know from many incidents that being able to lock a classroom door from the inside saves lives, and not having this ability costs them. Yet, we also know many school classrooms today still do not have this basic ability. Administrators must take care not to create new hazards by implementing measures that are ineffective, unproven or counterproductive. Schools should listen to public safety experts like fire marshals and trained security professionals and law enforcement when considering solutions.
(v) Technology is a key component to enhancing school safety and security. Today’s school safety and security challenges are multifaceted, ever evolving, and unique. While many low-cost solutions and accompanying policies and procedures form the basics of effective K-12 facility security, the enhancements that modern and widely available technologies provide cannot be ignored, especially those that can help speed response or prevent an incident before it occurs. While there is no single action or piece of technology that will, by itself, make our schools safe, using security technology to protect students and staff can be an effective part of a comprehensive approach coupled with enhanced policies, routines, and procedures for effective implementation.