(from “Safe Schools,” pages 74-76)
There are a number of measures that districts can take to improve security of school sites. However, schools should not feel like jails. The goal is to provide strong security, while at the same time create an inviting environment for students, family and staff.
Districts should conduct an assessment of the physical environment of each school site or district facility to identify safety needs, including conditions that allow unauthorized access to school facilities. For example, the assessment may look at fencing, the number of school entrances, security of ground-level windows and security needs on the playground or school perimeter. Based on the results of the assessment, districts should immediately address urgent unsafe conditions and may include long-term safety enhancements in their master facilities plan.
The use of 24-hour security cameras at school entrances and in hallways, lunchrooms and buses may deter school violence and provide schools with needed information when incidents do occur. Consideration must be given to the building infrastructure compatibility, cost, and precautions necessary to ensure that individuals’ privacy would not be compromised. Districts should also consider the potentially negative effects on school climate if the community is not fully informed and supportive.
Metal detectors are a tool to detect and prevent weapons being brought to school. Searches with metal detectors must be nondiscriminatory and random. The Attorney General recommends that advance notice of random searches be given to parents and students. Districts must weigh their security needs against the cost of the equipment and training and any potential infringement on instructional time.
Some districts have developed partnerships with law enforcement in which deputy sheriffs or police officers are assigned to school campuses. This strategy gives law enforcement higher visibility and the ability to respond immediately to a crisis on the campus. It also provides opportunities for positive, non-confrontational contact between students and law enforcement. Opening up school facilities for use by law enforcement further encourages a reciprocal relationship that benefits both schools and law enforcement.
Other districts employ their own security personnel. Districts should be aware that they may be liable for the intentional wrongdoing or negligence of district police officers acting within the scope of their employment.
Another security option is having a non-sworn youth/community relations officer assigned to the school. Sometimes called “community service officers,” they do not carry weapons and their function is more like that of a social worker. Community service officers attempt to identify difficult students and develop trusting relationships with them to prevent inappropriate behavior.
Finally, utilizing parents or other volunteers to monitor the halls, playgrounds and areas surrounding school campuses can improve school climate and deter violence. Having parents in the schools also increases the opportunity for students to interact with responsible adults.
Requiring students to remain on campus may help keep the campus secure during the day in addition to decreasing afternoon absenteeism. Negative reaction from students may be offset with increases in campus activities and collaboration with other organizations. Other issues the district may need to consider when implementing a closed campus policy are perimeter fencing, gated parking lots, restrictions on entrances, availability of food services and exit plans in the event of an emergency.
State law (Penal Code 627.2) requires certain types of visitors, defined as “outsiders” in the Penal Code, to register upon entering school premises during school hours. It appears that the district could require other visitors — including parents, board members, district employees, media representatives and others — to register upon entering school premises (Education Code 32212 and 35160). Limiting access to school grounds, posting notices informing visitors of the need to register in the school office and providing a visible means of identification for authorized visitors can reduce disruptions caused by individuals who have no legitimate reason to be on campus. A policy should be in place outlining access and the appeal procedure for individuals who are denied access or are asked to leave school grounds.