Physical Security Solutions for Schools

By: Dan Olk
June 12, 2023

If you work for a school, I don’t imagine I have to go into great detail to explain the need for better security solutions. It’s also hard to imagine a parent in this country who isn’t concerned about the safety of their child on a daily basis. Unfortunately, posting law enforcement at schools is controversial, expensive, and, more importantly, doesn’t seem to be an effective solution to the problem.

There are a few technologies, however, that are surprisingly effective at not just monitoring what’s already happening but also acting as deterrents for a number of threats to student safety.

Kids getting on a school bus

Common Threats to Student Safety

I think it’s fair to say that whenever student safety is mentioned, most people think of school shootings. While they’re horrific, and it’s understandable that they are a top concern of parents, they’re statistically very rare

Here’s a more accurate list of common threats to students’ physical and mental health:

  • Bullying
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Child exploitation
  • Accidents and weather emergencies
  • Infectious diseases
  • Mental health and substance abuse issues
  • Unwelcoming or hostile learning environments
  • Targeted violence

Best Practices for School Security

There will never be a way to eliminate risk from our lives, and cyberbullying, both on and off campus, is a problem that school anti-bullying programs haven’t been able to curb. But a number of physical security technologies can be highly effective.

Video Surveillance Systems 

It can be difficult to know what’s really going on in classrooms, hallways, stairways, lunchrooms, and school grounds unless you have some way of monitoring activity. But video surveillance systems can do more than show you where students are abusing substances or reveal bullying behavior. They also serve as a deterrent. 

Here are a few stats I find particularly helpful:

Security camera in school

  • Surveillance cameras are associated with a 50% reduction in crime
  • Cameras on school campuses have been shown to reduce recorded instances of bullying up to 70%
  • Security cameras have been shown to reduce drug crime by approximately 20%, and their efficacy was enhanced when paired with improved lighting, access control systems, communication systems, and more. 

Fortunately, video surveillance systems have come a long way over the past ten years, and you have better options to choose from.  On-premises surveillance systems can be more vulnerable to physical tampering but tend to provide images with more detail. Cloud-based systems, on the other hand, require minimal maintenance and tend to make life simpler for your IT personnel. But they can be hacked, so you might want to work with an experienced technology provider to keep your footage private.

Fever Detection, Facial Recognition, and More

Newer technologies can also integrate with video surveillance systems to recognize faces through artificial intelligence and scan facial temperatures. But because I want to help schools be safe more than I want to sell products, I want to add a word of caution. 

Unfortunately, these thermal cameras aren’t as accurate as they should be to detect signs of fever. The technology is impressive, but with an error range of plus or minus 3.6 °F, it probably won’t do schools much good to reduce the spread of disease. And we should also keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t have a fever doesn’t mean they’re not contagious.

Alarm Systems, Vape Sensors, and Gunshot Detection Systems

Today’s alarms can do more than just make a lot of noise in the event of a fire. They can be integrated with other components, like access control systems, to close off certain areas of your building to prevent a fire from getting out of hand. They can also warn you when and where a perimeter has been breached or a door is left ajar, so you can save precious minutes. 

With video surveillance systems in place, you can also get a good idea of where students may be using vaping devices or E-cigarettes so you can install vape sensors. When a sensor detects secondhand aerosol, it’ll send out an alert, letting you know where it was detected, so you can reach out to substance users and their families. 

And should your school ever experience an active shooter incident, specialized sensors can now detect gunshots and pinpoint the shooter’s location to help reduce response times — one of the biggest sources of public frustration following a school shooting.

Access Control Systems for Schools

Keys are a problem, and they’ve always been a problem. There’s no law against copying a “Do Not Duplicate” key. You can’t tell if a key has been copied. And you also can’t immediately cancel someone’s access to your facility.

Smartphone credentials

Badges, however, can be customized to grant access to only certain parts of the building. Access can be canceled quickly, and they can’t simply be copied. Schools and campuses might consider issuing badges to staff and approved visitors, and credentials can also be sent digitally to a smartphone.

And like video surveillance systems, today you have more options for access control systems. Should you go with an on-premises solution, your team will be responsible for its management. A cloud-based system, however, can be managed remotely. These systems are more cost-effective, they can be implemented quickly, and your provider can do the heavy lifting of integration, installation, and support.

Cost-Effective Methods of Enhancing School Safety and Security

It’s hard to remember a time when America’s schools weren’t underfunded, but experts say the problem is about to get worse. At Marco, we’ve worked hard to make sure that government organizations and nonprofits can still access the solutions they need without breaking the bank. 

We’re a proud member of the Cooperative Purchasing Connection (CPC); our pre-bid contract allows us to offer schools in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota accelerated purchasing and competitive pricing for security cameras, intrusion detection, and access control systems. 

You might also try using an online grant finder to see if your school district can access special funding to make safety-related upgrades. 

If you’re contemplating an upgrade to your current security system, it’s also important to understand that your security system shouldn’t look exactly the same as anyone else’s, and our experts wouldn’t recommend a solution without gaining a thorough understanding of your facilities, your needs, your unique risks, and your goals. Click the button below to gain additional insight into what we offer and check out the pros and cons of different solutions. 

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Topics: Education