Safety First: A Look at How Two Districts Use Security Tech to Protect Their Schools

Technology & Learning, August 2011 | Go to article overview

Safety First: A Look at How Two Districts Use Security Tech to Protect Their Schools


According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 85 percent of public schools recorded at least one incident of crime during the 2007-2008 school year that had taken place at school, amounting to an estimated two million crimes., We don't like to think or talk about it, but school security has become a top priority for school leaders.

The good news is that installing a video surveillance system has gotten easier in the last few years. Today, most security camera systems use IP cameras, which can be either wired or wireless over a computer network. Unlike older analog closed-circuit television systems, IP cameras can be installed by the user and reconfigured as needed. They also let users broadcast footage over the Internet, making it easy to monitor.

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But cameras are just a start. To help create a safe, secure environment and protect against everything from fights and bullying to trespassing and theft, schools are installing video surveillance cameras, physical access controls, and paging and radio systems.

All Systems Go

When IT director Matt Frederickson left the private sector to work at Council Rock (PA) School District in 2003, the IT infrastructure was so poor that, he says, "If the network was up for three days a week, the teachers were thrilled." So Frederickson called Cisco and installed a state-of-the-art network, knowing that a solid backbone was the first step to bringing the district up to date.

At the time, the high schools had limited video surveillance and door-access control deployments, but every camera and door controller required their own power lines, which cost $250 to $300 to install. Additionally, each system had to be managed locally, and video was stored on VCRs at each school.

The IT department, key administrators, and safety officers developed a master security plan. Their goals were for the control systems to be cost effective and easy to use and manage. "We had already invested in a solid IP network, so that became the platform for video surveillance and physical access controls," Frederickson says.

Today, the district has deployed 42 cameras in its two high schools, including wireless Cisco Video Surveillance 2500 series IP Cameras and wired cameras from Sony. The central IT office monitors all of the cameras through Cisco's video surveillance manager software; school resource officers, principals, and the dean can look at any camera's video using a Web browser.

Campus resource officers can move the cameras to any location without advance planning.

Because the video surveillance solution operates over the IP network, Council Rock can grant access to the system to people in any location. The district and the local police department established a memorandum of understanding, giving police permission to view video from cameras outside one of the high school buildings. …

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