School security is a growing concern throughout the country. Even if your educational institution is well-rehearsed in emergency procedures, no plan is complete without an effective security system. According to YouthToday, 71 percent of schools reported at least one violent incident during the 2018 school year. Additionally, 65 percent of schools reported at least one non violent incident, such as theft or property damage.
Instances of violence, theft or vandalism can occur at any school. While these crimes are an issue for schools across the country, there are several solutions that help improve safety and address security concerns.
School officials have a responsibility to provide students with a safe and secure place for learning. School safety requires a balanced, comprehensive approach between human action and equipment, not just one or the other.
From physical threats to cyber security, keep reading for security solutions that protect your students and faculty from harm.
Threats to Educational Institutions
Unfortunately, educational institutions of all levels face security risks. From preschool to college, below are some common threats to schools and colleges.
Violence has become an unfortunate occurrence in schools throughout the country. According to a year-long analysis from the Washington Post, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have been exposed to gun violence since Columbine in 1999.
While many educational institutions have emergency plans to keep students and staff protected in the unfortunate event of a violent situation, schools should also consider security solutions for a complete safety plan.
Vandalism and Theft
Vandalism is the destruction or defacement of property, including graffiti or damaging school facilities. Vandalism degrades school campuses and costs money that could be used for educational purposes.
For example, a Pennsylvania elementary school was forced to close for the day after an intruder broke in overnight and vandalized the school’s gym. Thankfully, security cameras assisted authorities with the criminal’s capture.
But, it’s not just vandalism—theft also poses a threat to educational institutions. Whether it’s students’ private property or educational equipment, theft can negatively impact a school’s performance.
Just take the Ohio school maintenance worker who was charged with fraud for stealing nearly $64,000 worth of goods from the district. Or this man who was caught stealing backpacks, electronics and cash from a high school locker room in Connecticut.
From health information, such as insurance and emergency contacts, to financial information, such as loan information and social security numbers, cyber security must be considered in any active educational institution.
According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report, a startling 35 percent of all education sector data breaches were caused by human error. Additionally, Webroot notes over 48 million records were exposed in educational institutions across the country during the 2017-2018 school year.
Cyber security has become such a threat in educational institutions that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a public service announcement stating educational institutions face the highest threat of being targeted by hackers and cyber criminals.
Cyber crime also affects productivity at schools. For example, an entire New Jersey school district was delayed two hours after hackers infected the network with ransomware.
However, it’s not only outside parties schools have to worry about. Students also exploit weak networks for their own gain. Just look at this incident where a 12-year-old student used a cell phone and school issued laptop to hack the Wi-Fi in an attempt to avoid doing school work.
Whether it’s to protect data or your network, educational institutions need proper cyber security safeguards to prevent situations like the examples mentioned above.
Security Solutions for Educational Institutions
Implement Video Surveillance
- Watch your school throughout the day.
- Revisit stored video footage for evidence.
- View live or recorded video from your entire school building, and use a smartphone or computer to remotely control cameras and adjust views.
- Set event-based alerts to notify security if a room or area at the school is accessed without permission.
- View a live video feed to catch a trespasser in the act.
However, there are many legal requirements regarding the use of cameras in schools. Your team must consider areas where students expect privacy. Areas such as bathrooms, locker rooms, dorms and even nurses’ offices should be private spaces for students and faculty. Enlisting the help of a professional security team can be extremely valuable when installing video surveillance.
There are also some ethical questions your team needs to consider before implementing video surveillance in your school district or campus. Some of these questions include:
- Can a zoom lens on a surveillance camera be used to evaluate whether a student possesses contraband?
- Is it appropriate to disclose surveillance footage to parents of a student injured in a fight?
- Should footage be disclosed in response to media and other public inquiries?
- Are there special concerns about allowing law enforcement “live feed” access?
As you develop your security plan, ensure school officials are in agreement with these questions and considerations.
Utilize Access Control
Access control is one of the best tools for securing your school. This technology provides faculty and administrators access to sensitive areas, such as offices, while restricting unauthorized persons. For instance, the teachers’ lounge door could be unlocked only with a teacher’s I.D.
Access control includes equipment such as:
- Access cards.
- Basic intercom systems.
- Biometric readers.
- Proximity readers.
- Swipe readers.
- Turnstile readers.
- Video analytics interface.
Access control can maximize staff and student security at your educational institution by giving insight into who is coming and going on campus. For example, access control records when individuals enter and exit the building, giving school security personnel a log of all visitors. Consider implementing swipe cards for faculty or installing turnstiles for your school media library to ensure both students and teachers are held accountable.
Prevent Cyber Crime
Unfortunately, cyber crime threatens personal data security. Whether it’s ransomware, phishing schemes or data breaches, there are several ways cyber criminals target data. Educational institutions should implement the following practices to keep data and devices secure:
- Install security software updates. Keep your security software, web browsers and operating systems updated with the latest protections. Antivirus software is often modified to protect against new cyber threats. Prompt update installation helps defend against the latest risks.
- Practice proper password management. Stolen credentials are one of the more common causes of data breaches. When educational institutions don’t password protect devices or don’t require strong credentials, they could be exposing their networks to hackers. If outside parties gain access to your school’s information, it could lead to problems like identity theft, stolen credit card information and more. Keep your sensitive school information safe with these password management practices.
- Monitor for threats. There are a number of proactive and reactive services that can be bundled with a monitoring program to create the right management solution for any networked system.
- Secure each network element. Building management systems, the computers you log into and every device in between should be secured to avoid a security breach.
- Secure Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These days, schools commonly utilize IoT devices, like laptops, tablets and computers, to access and share information. Limit your risk of a data breach by conducting regular audits of all IoT devices.
- Keep software and electronic devices updated. Your cyber security policy should address updating devices and software regularly to protect against new cyber attacks.
- Encrypt sensitive data. Utilize encryption to disguise student, faculty and staff data as it’s shared across networks.
Cyber criminals are constantly looking for new ways to hack into your system. While there is no one solution to prevent cyber crime, the above tips are basic practices that can help prevent a data breach in your educational institution.
Establish Emergency Communication Channels
Strong communication channels are one of the best ways to control a threatening situation. Some educational institutions use intercom speakers to relay an agreed upon code—such as “Mr. Fox is in the building”—to communicate that the school’s safety has been compromised. This can, however, tip off the unwanted visitor that they’ve been identified. Instead, leverage technology solutions, such as an emergency alert notification system (EANS), to:
- Discreetly notify students, faculty, staff and parents via SMS text message, email or phone call.
- Trigger messages via web, phone call or automated processes.
- Customize messages to convey which protocol is in effect.
- Link EANS with the schools’ security system.
Dealing with safety during an emergency can be difficult, but the right security technology can help mitigate risk and keep everyone safe.
Install Monitored Alarms
A monitored alarm system is a final, all-encompassing solution to keeping your educational institution safe. Choose an alarm that emits a sound when certain entrances are breached or other emergencies are present. For example, install an alarm system that has a specific sound when there is a fire and another sound for a natural disaster like a tornado. This way students will recognize the emergency and respond with the appropriate procedure.
Furthermore, the alarm system should be linked to a mass communication system that alerts students who may be off campus via text or email about an emergency situation occurring in the building.
Secure Your Educational Institution With an Industry Expert
School security is crucial for student safety and wellness. Hundreds of educational institutions trust our Vector Security team as their safety provider because we understand the importance of protecting today’s children in schools.
If you’d like help getting started in your security journey, contact one of our professional security experts today.