School Security Must Go Beyond ‘That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It’ Today

Michael Garcia of HID Global explains why school districts need a proactive, unified approach to safety and security.

Being proactive with a unified approach to school security and safety is critical to preventing and responding to incidents.

However, historically most school districts have taken the exact opposite approach. Traditionally, they’ve waited to address their pressing safety and security vulnerabilities until after a major incident has occurred, according to Michael Garcia, HID Global’s safe schools national end user director.

“Force protection, defense in depth, qualitative third party, independent verification and validation — the necessary things for a risk assessment — were never on the school budget,” says Garcia. “So, they could never be planned for, they were always reactively financed.”

What followed would usually be a piecemeal approach to school security upgrades. Cameras would be installed at one time, intrusion sensors would be installed at another, locks would be installed on classroom doors the following year, and so on.

Although the installation of this equipment was a significant improvement over what was protecting the campus before, the systems that were implemented often wouldn’t communicate or integrate with each other.

Another challenge with the traditional way of handling school security, especially as it applied to access control, was that very often first responders would have difficulty accessing the scene of an emergency because they didn’t have the right keys or access control credentials.

To be fair, it’s understandable why the reactive approach to school safety had traditionally been school districts’ modus operandi. K-12 campus protection is a relatively new field, and the recent changes to it seem to have come at lightning speed.

What’s more, the vast majority of school board members don’t volunteer for their positions to become security experts. The same goes for administrators and educators, who have been trained to focus on academics, not active shooter response.

Why School Security Protocols Must Change Now

However, Garcia says all of this must change. Mental health, behavioral interventions, mitigation efforts, risk assessors, people, processes, and security technologies must all work together as an “orchestra” with one conductor.

Doing so will help prevent school security incidents from happening in the first place, mitigate them when they do occur, and ensure first responders will be able to quickly and appropriately respond.

In this interview with Campus Safety editor-in-chief Robin Hattersley-Gray, Garcia specifically covers:

  • Why school districts have historically relied on standalone solutions: 0:10
  • How this piecemeal procurement process was implemented, and why it didn’t work: 2:10
  • Why there historically hasn’t been a planned approach to school safety and security procurements: 4:40
  • How disparate groups in a school district, including the security director, mental health, safety committee and other administrators should now work together. 7:26
  • Who should involved in campus safety and security planning: 9:19
  • The layers of security as described by the PASS guidelines: 12:23
  • How a unified program can deliver reliable situational analysis and response: 15:52 
  • How mobile credentials can be used to achieve rapid incident response: 20:20

The original version of this post appeared on SSI’s sister site, CampusSafety.com.Mike Garcia will be presenting “Mobile Access for Improved School Security & Business Operations” at the 2024 Campus Safety Conference in Atlanta July 8-10. For more information and to register, visit CampusSafetyConference.com.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration.

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