As today’s challenges increase, so do the proactive approaches schools take to combat violence. For example, in 2012, schools began expanding security to include options such as armed security guards, stronger walls, high-tech locks, and training programs for teachers and students. With tactics, budgets, and risk factors varying by school districts and cities, school security remains an evolving topic — with the most recent advancements including the application of video surveillance supported by proactive artificial intelligence software.
Invest in Proactive Technology
These days, metal detectors can be considered an outmoded technology for school security. Although they may help prevent the entry of some firearms, knives, and other unwanted metal objects, in this age of 3D printed plastic weapons, schools cannot securely depend on metal detectors alone. Instead, every school in the United States should be pursuing options that support proactive and rapid-response approaches to school incidents.
Installing video surveillance cameras to support and expand security efforts can be a key step. The investment in an intelligent school security system can help combat incidents that might not involve weapons, such as proactively notifying staff of an unauthorized person entering campus, as well as helping to support quick remediation of an ongoing event. Paired with training on how to respond to different types of situations, surveillance systems can be an incredible tool for recognizing, addressing, and controlling situations quickly.
When choosing a security provider or partner, schools should look for simple enterprise-level solutions that avoid relying on the use of dated digital video recorders or network video recorders. DVR based video surveillance systems can be unwieldy to maintain, have well-established security gaps, and come with hefty extra hidden down-the-line costs such as the purchase of local servers and additional storage. Instead, schools should look for plug-and-play options that can scale to countless locations, with a native user interface simple enough that training hours can be spent on how to respond to incidents instead of how to use the system itself (for a good example of security systems done right, check out Verkada’s AI-empowered hybrid cloud solution). Intelligent scalable solutions will save money in the long term, because an investment in these improved technologies provides the ability to expand without the need to replace. In the end, although the topic of surveillance raises questions of privacy and investment cost, the need to prevent another break-in, student fights or even a mass shooting at a school trumps most of these arguments.
Focus on Education and Counseling
Students are not the only people in schools who will learn. Schools must train faculty and staff on a continual basis. Some of these training sessions will include the traditional and typical emergency management plans and crisis handling situations. These are important because they provide detailed information on how to react to an event and what procedures to follow. The continual training in this area and subsequent drills emphasize practice, which creates procedures that become second nature. Therefore, when a crisis occurs, all school employees would know how to react out of instinct.
School boards, however, have developed and implemented these ideas for decades. Although they are important, the plans are reactive in nature. All the plans are executed after a problem arises, yet violence in schools continues to escalate. Therefore, schools must begin shifting from a reactive state to a more proactive and preventative state. A main component in most school shootings has been the bullying problem. A preventive step toward developing a less violent environment is building anti-bullying campaigns, and adding more counseling and support resources for students who are at-risk or in crisis. As part of the pre-emptive plan, adults must act in a quick and consistent fashion, so students understand that such behavior is not tolerated.
Cultivate Student’s Emotional Intelligence Skills
Teachers should be trained to look for warning signs of possible security issues, including identifying bullies and those being bullied. Such information is often communicated with other faculty and parents, but giving students themselves the tools to help manage and address conflict themselves can be just as powerful and motivating (sometimes more so) than external intervention from parents and staff.
The Manhattan Early College School for Advertising is a great example of a school that integrates Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills into every aspect of student life, by constantly focusing on and reinforcing the school’s core values — one of which is explicitly listed as empathy. The school does a good job of recognizing Gen Z’s preference to “do it themselves.” The students want to build the skills to solve problems themselves, rather than relying on issues and tasks to be handled by an authority figure. Providing students with the ability to communicate safely with one another despite their own emotionally charged lives can increase how connected students feel with one another, and decrease conflicts. Citizen Tech Collective, a social impact-motivated design firm that recently did an in-depth study on how to combat bullying in schools, lists one of the surprising things about interacting with Gen Z students as their own sense of accountability and desire to resolve issues themselves: “When we met with students and asked what tools they’d like to see to help combat a rising culture of negativity and ostracization, they asked for resources (advice, tutorials, a way to text experts) that would help them interact more constructively. It was interesting to see students ask authority figures to play a teaching and support role, rather than one of direct intervention.” Recognizing the desire that Gen Z and younger generations have to build skills themselves rather than relying on others to help solve challenges can be a powerful way for schools to unite all stakeholders (students, parents, and staff) in creating safe environments.