How Tech Can Bolster School Security and Help Prevent the Next School Shooting
There is no single approach or solution that can help protect schools.
- By Sam Rabadi
- June 28, 2018
U.S. schools have closed for summer recess. But, school administrators won’t be taking a break. Instead, they will be trying to figure out how they can increase security measures to protect children and staff from gun violence when they return for the next school year.
There is no single approach or solution that can help protect schools. But, there are technologies that are currently in use commercially and by law enforcement agencies that can be tailored to a school setting to further secure school campuses. These technology systems, combined with effective building fortifications, can help school administrators bolster security programs in their schools.
A Concentric Approach to Security
Security professionals around the world rely on a layered approach to security that entails an inner, middle and outer perimeter. The inner perimeter, which is primarily the main school building, would consist of a number of security fortifications to harden the school structure. The establishment of a middle and outer perimeter would essentially serve to extend security measures beyond the inner perimeter. The outer perimter would encompass the external boundaries of a school property to include access roads to parking lots, entry sidewalks and student/guest parking areas. The establishment of a middle perimeter would be dependent on the types of security features deployed and would lie somewhere in-between the outer and inner perimeters.
In an effort to keep schools safe from gun violence, there are several technologies currently deployed by law enforcement agencies that help to identify subjects for follow up investigation:
Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems utilize high-tech cameras with accompanying software to detect the license plate of a car. Some of these ALPR systems also utilize sophisticated data analytics, to help locate vehicles in question, or even identify a license plate number, when that vehicle has been used in connection with a past crime. These systems also have been used in a number of documented instances to locate missing children or kidnapped individuals by locating a subject vehicle. ALPR systems have also been used commercially as security measures to identify vehicles that do not belong at a particular location (unknown vehicle) or a vehicle that security officials have identified as a security risk (known vehicle).
ALPR systems can be reconfigured for use in a school security setting to assist school security officials to help identify a vehicle that does not belong on a campus or conversely, flag a vehicle that is restricted from being on school grounds. These camera systems would be deployed on the outer perimeter, typically on an access road either approaching or entering a school parking lot.
Facial recognition programs are currently deployed in numerous security settings commercially and may be tailored to a particular security setting like a school. Commercial security applications have utilized facial recognition solutions as access control systems to allow entry for authorized individuals or to help identify an individual with restricted access.
Many states have either passed or are contemplating Red Flag legislation. A student who has been “red flagged” is an individual deemed to be “at-risk.” This process typically involves some type of action by law enforcement to restrict access to firearms along with some type of intervention by mental health professionals. Furthermore, this type of “red flag” status may include restricted access to school grounds during the intervention period by those professionals. With facial recognition, school officials would be alerted to an unauthorized entry by the flagged student before they make entry inside a school (middle perimeter). This security feature would also apply to other types of unauthorized individuals such as a former employee, a person with a restraining order, or an individual identified as a sexual predator.
These security strategies, working in concert with existing security measures, have the goal of expanding out the inner perimeter to create additional security buffers. Incorporating these security technologies into an integrated security plan will help to identify an intruder or potential active shooter before they enter inside a school building. The goal of these security measures is to alert first responders as quickly as possible and allow for a rapid response to interdict a potential intruder in the outer or middle perimeter. By design, the measures operate as a layered security approach and provide built-in redundancy as an alert system. Furthermore, these security measures serve as a potential deterrence to an at-risk student or other potential intruder who knows security personnel inside of a school will be alerted that they are on the school grounds.
The above-described security concept not only serves to create additional layers of security but also can be integrated into the school’s existing business process. Any new security technology being considered for adaptation into a school environment should have the capability to integrate with existing school administrative procedures. All schools have an existing business process for identification of students, faculty and staff that utilizes student IDs and other forms of identification. Furthermore, the business process of a school also includes the regulation of student and staff parking on its grounds. Facial recognition and license plate readers can be seamlessly integrated into the school’s existing business process, while adding new value through enhanced security.
Despite the ongoing debates about security measures and our schools, these cross-over technologies adapted to school settings are minimally intrusive, affordable and apolitical. They merely serve as a notification or alert system to security officials, school administrators and law enforcement officers to help prevent a critical incident. Schools need to be safe havens from crime and security measures in place are there not only to protect students and staff but also to give them a sense of feeling safe from harm.
There is no one solution to prevent school shootings, just as there is no one cause. It will take a multi-faceted approach, from early intervention and mental health services for at-risk children, to better coordination between schools, parents, mental health professionals and law enforcement.