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Security Concepts and Operational Issues
(Chapter 1   The Big Picture, Continued)

New school design

Many school buildings in the United States have been constructed to achieve an inviting and open-to-the-community feeling, with multiple buildings, big windows, multiple entrances and exits, and many opportunities for privacy. Needless to say, these layouts are not conducive to many current requirements to address security needs. To combat broken windows and nighttime thefts, the country also went through a brief period of designing schools with almost no windows; the cavelike results these designs produced were soon found to be objectionable to many people.

Incorporating the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) in the design or remodeling of a school can contribute greatly to the control and security of the campus. There are several good sources of CPTED literature available through the Web; CPTED as applied specifically to schools will be covered in a subsequent volume.

If a district has the luxury of looking forward to a new school in the future, it is imperative that trained security personnel, who are familiar with the area and the community, and who will be responsible for day-to-day security operations in the new facility, are involved in every step of the new design. This is critical to ensuring that the design of the new school minimizes vulnerabilities. There are architectural firms specializing in schools that incorporate good security principles; a security-conscious design can actually help compensate in the long term for tight security budgets, fewer security personnel, and less sophisticated security gadgets. The following are some suggestions to keep in mind for a new facility; the funding, location, geography, streets, and neighborhood will usually drive which ideas are feasible for each new school. Although this list includes only a few basic security technologies (such as cameras, sensors, and so forth), the facility design should not preclude their straightforward installation in the future.

  • Limit the number of buildings-one building is best-to limit outsiders on the campus.
  • Minimize the entrances to the school building- having one or two main entrances/exits will support efforts to keep outsiders off campus. Allow enough room at the main entry in the event that a screening area (i.e., for weapon or drug detection) needs to be incorporated later on. Alarm other exits for emergency use only.
  • Exhibit 1.07Minimize the line of sight from secluded off-campus sites onto student gathering areas, the main entry doors, playgrounds, patios, and so forth (exhibit 1.7). (This suggestion must be tempered against the benefits gained from the natural, desirable surveillance by neighbors, passers-by, officers on patrol, and so forth.)
  • Allow for a security person to be posted at a single entrance onto campus to challenge each vehicle for identification of all occupants. Buses and school employees should have a separate (and controlled) entrance.
  • Provide a dropoff/pickup lane for buses only.
  • Minimize the number of driveways or parking lots that students will have to walk across to get to the school building.
  • Build single-stall bathrooms to mitigate bathroom confrontations and problems.
  • Enclose the campus. (This is more a measure to keep outsiders out rather than to keep insiders in.) Beside defining property boundaries, a robust fence forces a perpetrator to consciously trespass, rather than allowing casual entry.
  • Make certain that the school building and classroom areas can be closed and locked off from the gym and other facilities used during off hours.
  • Minimize secluded hiding places for unauthorized persons, both inside and outside buildings.
  • Do not eliminate windows, but use them strategically. Consider incorporating clerestories or secure skylights that allow light in but that are less vulnerable than typical windows.
  • Maximize the line of sight within buildings.
  • Large wide spaces, like hallways or commons, should have sufficient vertical dimension so space does not feel restrictive to students.
  • Exhibit 1.08Consider installing student lockers in classrooms or other areas easy to monitor so that there is no single locker area that becomes a bottleneck, and there is always the deterrence of an adult nearby (exhibit 1.8).
  • Do not cut corners on communications, especially those required for security. Make certain that your facility has built in the necessary receivers and transmitters throughout the structure to allow for dependable two-way radio and cellular phone use. (Sometimes radio frequency communication is not possible deep within a large, structurally dense facility.)
  • Where possible, have buildings and other student gathering areas set back from the streets, driveways, or parking areas by at least 50 feet.
  • Install a basic security alarm system throughout all hallways, administrative offices, and rooms containing high-value property, such as computers, VCRs, shop equipment, laboratory supplies, and musical instruments.
  • Exhibit 1.09Allow a law enforcement officer to live on campus. (In some school districts, an officer is allowed to move his or her own trailer to a strategic location on campus and receive free utilities in exchange for prenegotiated and formally contracted responsibilities.) The deterrent effect of a police vehicle parked on campus all night and weekend can be great. Such an arrangement can also provide both detection and response in situations where damage is being inflicted upon the facility, but no alarm system would normally detect it (exhibit 1.9).
  • Provide a separate parking area for work-study students or those who will be leaving during the school day. (This allows the main student parking lot to be closed off during the school day.)
  • Make certain that exterior lighting is sufficient for safety. Lights mounted on the exterior of buildings often are inadequate for adjoining driveways or parking lots.
  • Do not underestimate the value of trees and landscaping on a school campus. An attractive, well- maintained school is generally less attractive to thieves.

Exhibit 1.10

Exhibit 1.10 shows a school with several of these ideas incorporated. (Note: This is not an actual architectural drawing, does not incorporate basic facility requirements, and is not drawn to scale.)

 



Research Report:   The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools