Magazine article District Administration

Security for Administration Centers and School Board Meetings: These Sites Are Often Overlooked for Safety Planning by School Leaders

Magazine article District Administration

Security for Administration Centers and School Board Meetings: These Sites Are Often Overlooked for Safety Planning by School Leaders

Article excerpt

School board members and superintendents typically focus their safety planning and preparedness measures on school campuses, but they often overlook security and emergency planning for administration centers, board meeting sites and support facilities.

Today's climate of economic uncertainty, school budget cuts and the growing politicization of education issues create a new level of risk for the adults running districts. Failure to take reasonable preparedness measures can lead to increased risks and the potential for greater liability.

Higher-Risk School Sites

Administration buildings typically house board offices, superintendents, human resources staff, special ed staff, student services and expulsion hearing officers. "Two of my greatest concerns are safety considerations during employee termination processes and recognition that critical situations can occur at any time at school board meetings," says John Weicker, director of security for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Community School District.

The district has a close working relationship with law enforcement agencies and other community emergency responders. But Weicker knows that school officials are often the first responders to a critical incident, and need to consider where they face higher safety risks.

Districts also typically have stand-alone facilities separate from administration centers that house transportation depots, food service operations, maintenance and custodial operations and storage--and are often overlooked in safety planning.

Boards and superintendents are quick to point to limited budgets and to concerns about community perceptions that they are beefing up security for themselves instead of at facilities housing students.

While budgets and student security are legitimate concerns, they do not negate a district's responsibilities to protect all employees.

Common Security

In our security and emergency-preparedness assessment consultations, the most common gaps at administration and support service facilities include:

* Inadequate or nonexistent access control

* Minimal or nonexistent communications capabilities, such as the lack of a public address system or a fire alarm system

* No site-specific crisis teams, meetings or planning efforts

* Absence of drills such as fire drills, lockdowns and evacuations

School leaders should not set a lower standard of care for those employees. …

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