Should You Go Through the Third Degree When Trying to Visit a School? Absolutely

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Should You Go Through the Third Degree When Trying to Visit a School? Absolutely

security.jpgHere are some unnerving stats for you: 160,000 kids stay home every day because of bullying; 8.2 million students a year suffer from the hands of bullying; 739,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. roam about; and school enrollment is expected to grow at nine to 10 percent between now and 2018.

So what is the common thread between all these figures? That finding the right school security technology is paramount to finding the most educated teachers and the most-up-to-date technology teaching supplements.

Last week I had the chance to speak with ADT Security, a company that has more than six million customers, has been in the security business for over 130 years and provides over 15,000 schools and 1,300 colleges and universities with security technology. Pat Fiel, school safety expert for ADT and former D.C. school administrator, explained to me that in a world plagued by bullying, stranger danger and overcrowded schools, security has become one of the most important things in schools.

ADT works from the K-12 level to colleges, completing risk assessments of the buildings and determining how to make them safer. For example, with 8.2 million students a year being traumatized by bullying, schools are advised to install video cameras in bully prone areas such as unattended classrooms and dark stairwells so that administrators can monitor these spaces or consult video footage after the fact to determine what really happened during the bullying incident.

Moreover, with 739,000 sex offenders running rampant, it becomes increasingly important to institute access control systems, which control school entrance doors electronically. With these systems, administrators can discern who exactly it is that they are letting into the building. Before visitors even enter the building, ADT’s security system allows the main office to view them through video cameras and use voice recognition software to determine the person’s identity. 

Nowadays, most schools grapple with the notion of having an open or closed campus environment. And even though the closed campus might feel a bit constricting at times, it is by far the more prudent option.

Last year, my friend and I visited our former high school and waltzed right through the front door – the security guard usually on sight wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Granted, this could have been a fluke moment where the guard happened to have left his post for a moment, but still it was amazing to see how easily we entered the building.  As we strolled through the building – sans visitor badges — we didn’t have one person stop us or question the fact that we clearly looked older than high school students (well at least my male friend did!). At that moment it struck me that perhaps my high school, which is situated in one of the safest spots of Westchester County, simply had the “not me” mentality  – thinking that a Columbine or stranger danger incident was an unfounded concern.

“One thing we are concerned about is that administrators still have the mentality that it can’t happen at my site or campus and I reiterate numerous times that it can happen anywhere and you have to be prepared and be proactive versus reactive,” Fiel told me.

Schools want to be trusting, but that trust can quickly become violated, even in the safest of towns. All it takes is someone to slip carelessly into the building and you can have a horrific incident take place that will be splashed across the front page of the news the next day.

Sure, we don’t want our kids to come into a school that feels similar to going through airport security after 9/11, but we do want our kids safe. I guarantee you kids will never notice the security cameras installed for their protection or the fact that visitors have to buzz to get into the building after morning and afternoon rushes, but they will certainly notice that uncomfortable feeling that rises in the pit of their stomach when that individual enters the school who doesn’t look just right.

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