School safety and security continues to be top of mind for parents, students, educational institutions and other stakeholders. As of late 2022, there have been more than 40 school shootings in the year, according to Education Week. Meanwhile, nearly half of all school and district leaders say they are receiving more threats of violence by students than before the pandemic.
Given this environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that all levels of educational institutions are increasing their use of physical security technology, according to a survey by Campus Safety magazine.
Trends in school safety
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety, the trend line regarding elementary, secondary and postsecondary school security is mixed.
Key findings for K-12 schools include:1
- A significant drop in nonfatal criminal victimization (including theft and non-fatal assaults)
- Reductions in the reporting rates of bullying, student sexual harassment and harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender
- More school shootings with casualties—2020-21 had the highest number since 2000-01
- Increased reports of cyberbullying and student abuse and disrespect toward teachers
- 2020-21 was the first time since data was recorded that the majority of school shootings were not at high schools2
Some of the school security measures implemented in the previous decade include:3
- Controlling access to school buildings (97%, up from 92% in 2009-10)
- Security cameras (91%, up from 61% in 2009-10)
- Requiring staff to wear badges or picture IDs (77%, up from 63% in 2009-10)
- Having at least one security staff present at school at least once a week (65%, up from 43% in 2009-10)
Postsecondary school safety findings include:4
- Reduced crime rates on campus
- Increased reporting of forcible sex offenses, which constituted 43% of all criminal incidents reported
- 757 reports of hate crimes, a majority of which were motivated by race or ethnicity
School security technology
There are a number of technology solutions available to schools and universities for school safety.
As the NCES report shows, security camera systems are now a de facto security measure on campus. Security camera use in schools has ballooned in recent years, and cloud technology has played a significant role in this increase, allowing schools to monitor their security cameras remotely. This only emphasizes the need for a strong, reliable network when it matters most.
Intelligent video systems can provide advanced video analytics, including archived video synopsis, near real-time video analysis and dashboard visualization metrics. When suspicious activity is detected, an alert can be immediately sent to relevant staff. This enables faster responses and better, quicker decision-making.
Schools can employ a variety of lighting methods to ensure spaces are not only well-lit for learning but can identify and deter intruders. These include standby lighting (activated by a sensor), emergency lighting (used as a backup), and moveable lighting (used for searchlights).
Smart lighting solutions allow schools to either remotely operate lights or set parameters to automatically adjust lights based on schedules. This can not only help address school security concerns but also help to decrease energy costs.
Locking doors from the interior can be critical in helping to increase school security and secure classrooms. Pew Research has found that around three-quarters of K-12 campuses have classrooms equipped with interior locking doors. Automated lockdown systems are another option for remotely securing campuses. These systems allow staff to use an app to effectively lock down a school by closing and locking exterior doors with the push of a button.
Schools can use different methods to grant access to campus buildings. Access control options range from mechanical (keys) to wireless credential options, such as smart cards or mobile phones. Near-field communication access control uses high-frequency radio waves to verify and grant access to users. These radio waves transmit data between a credential and a reader to grant access wirelessly.
Emergency call systems
Public Blue Light Towers can provide an additional element of school security by allowing anyone to call for help when and where it is needed, regardless of power, cell signal or remote location. These emergency phones can operate 24/7 and can be integrated in mass notification systems and even send SMS text notifications to first responders.
Mass notification systems
Crisis communication is an important element of school security. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "The right message at the right time from the right person can save lives." Mass notification systems can broadcast alerts to a large number of people in real time. School security personnel use these systems to send urgent information about potential threats, emergencies, and directions on how to respond. Systems use a variety of channels including phone calls, emails, text messages, and mobile app notifications.
Some schools use datacasting, an emergency response communication system that uses television signals to provide critical information, such as layouts and safety plans, to first responders.
Wireless Priority Service
Verizon’s Wireless Priority Service (WPS) is a federal government program that authorizes commercial service providers to prioritize calls over their wireless networks. In times of congestion, WPS provides voice priority for agency personnel during planned and unplanned events, resulting in a higher probability of call completion. In those rare instances when the wireless network is fully utilized, preemption is automatically activated which reallocates network resources to maintain a connection into the network, thus enabling WPS users uninterrupted connectivity. Educational institutions are eligible to apply for WPS through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)/Emergency Communications Division (ECD).
The importance of a reliable network for campus security
With so many technology solutions for school security, education institutions will benefit from a reliable, strong network as nearly all of these technologies are likely to be connected to the campus network. Mitigating your security risks means strengthening, securing, and modernizing your network infrastructure.
Learn more about how smart solutions can help keep education institutions safe.
The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.
1 National Center for Education Statistics, Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021, page 2.
3 National Center for Education Statistics, page 3.
4 National Center for Education Statistics, page 2.