This articles was originally published in NYSIR News – Winter 2011
A recent Florida news story featured a segment which showed an irate attendee firing shots during a school board meeting. Even one such incident is a reminder of the need for security measures for the administration building and all school board and other meetings open to the public.
When you visit an elementary school you will probably pre-search for your wallet or purse, knowing that identification or a signature will be required at the security desk. However, if your district has a separate administration office area or building would you expect the same screening process? Probably not, since often these sites have an open door policy, where all visitors can come and go at any time through any of the building entrances.
The Need for Security Measures
Central office administrators and staff members also deserve a secure work environment, even if there are no students at their location. In the private sector, most office workers have a guard or receptionist at their worksite to evaluate visitors, watch the premises and report problems. Clearly, employees in the administration building face threats also, from fed-up taxpayers, emotional parents or angry protesters. In addition, this building houses the nucleus for many controversial issues – budgets, hiring/firing decisions, school politics, discipline issues, and complaint/crime investigations. Most visitors to your central office, whether job applicants, meeting attendees or vendors, have innocent intentions. But you cannot, without a screening process, distinguish individuals with a legitimate purpose from those who may be poorly intentioned. If your administration building does not have a security process in place, then the employees may feel unsafe or afraid to enter isolated areas, such as the elevators or restrooms.
Building Security Checklist
Consider administration building security and emergency planning as a district-wide priority:
- Are drills practiced with all staff?
- Do central office employees have a place to which to evacuate in case of an emergency?
- Are panic buttons in place to summon assistance without attracting attention?
- Are visitors uniformly screened?
- Is one entrance clearly labeled as the visitor’s entrance?
- If a controversy arose, would additional security be provided before the next school board meeting?
- Has emergency services been asked to visit this location for a tour?
- Is this building equipped with automatic defibrillators, first aid kits, emergency lighting and emergency kits?
- Are adequate fire and burglar alarms protecting this essential location?
- Is this location properly addressed in the district’s emergency plans?
- Are there two clear exits from this location?
The central office staff and offices are the heart of the district’s operations, so carefully consider the need for drills, security and alarms at this location. Be sure that the need for security at this location and for its staff is not underestimated just because they are not located in a student-occupied location. Do not be guilty of falling into “it can’t happen here” complacency.