An Advanced Class
Schools determined to take security to the next level will see greater ROI in the future
- By Jeff Brummett
- Feb 05, 2007
OFTENTIMES, adults find themselves daydreaming of the days of their
youth. Most children long for the day when they're no longer a child.
They long for the freedom, fun and excitement believed to come with
adulthood. Those who have made the great transition to adulthood,
sometimes find themselves longing for a reprisal back to the day when
cares were free and worries included those major life decisions such as
who to ask to prom.
If our education system has any hope of surviving the next 20 years, school security has to become a priority.
Children today have no idea how pressure packed modern adulthood has
become, and how dangerous the world is. Children don't know how
competitive corporate culture has become or how difficult it is to save
In many ways, children have their own important things to worry
about, such as avoiding the resident bully at school. The difference
between the bully of yesterday and the bully of today is that the bully
of today is far more likely to carry a high-speed automatic weapon
instead of using two fists for a free lunch.
Imagine the uproar 35 years ago that would have rocked most
communities if someone had suggested spending big bucks on metal
detectors and video surveillance systems in elementary schools. Of
course, no one could have imagined someone flying commercial airliners
into the World Trade Center.
If our education system has any hope of surviving the next 20
years, school security has to become a priority. Violent episodes in
schools have led educators and legislators to do just that. Suggestions
on how to do this have proceeded on many different tracks. One of the
more controversial methods is video surveillance.
Those who advocate the use of cameras say video surveillance
provides peace of mind for students, staff and parents. Security
experts and administrators say most students, especially those prone to
acceptable behavior, as well as teachers, seem to appreciate the
increased sense of security. One truth seems to be universal. People do
more good and less bad when they think someone is watching.
There are myriad problems school administrators face today that pose
formidable challenges when trying to create a safe environment
conducive to educating young minds. Terrorism comes in all shapes and
sizes. Students known as bullies may not think of themselves as
terrorists. It doesn't change the fact that they are. Vandalizing
property of other students, teachers or the school itself has become
routine in many schools across the country. Deadly weapons have been
found on teenagers in high school and elementary students alike. And
it's not just larger, high-risk schools either. In the rural southern
Indiana town of Bedford, the high school recently deployed video
surveillance at the senior high campus.
"Fortunately, we haven't had any major incidents like what we've all
seen on national news programs over the last few years. But we have
seen an increase of vandalism, student violence and threats over the
past several years," said Phil Richason technology coordinator of the
school's new DVR system. "The vast majority of our students are great
kids. You always have a few that seem driven to challenge the
boundaries of acceptable behavior. There is no question -- the presence
of surveillance cameras has had a positive impact. Our biggest problem
now is realizing how much larger our system really needs to be in order
to see and protect all the things we'd like."
Those concerns are repeated by school administrators in communities
throughout the country. Creating and maintaining a stable environment
for learning is becoming a major concern among top educators.
Atmospheres of fear, lawlessness and chaos simply don't produce
productive young citizens ready to take on challenges the world
presents. Can active surveillance monitoring practices be used in
schools to spot potentially troubled behavior before it results in
tragedy? Does anyone argue that the more stable the environment, the
better the learning opportunity? Isn't it time to invest in technology
that leverages the ability to accomplish these goals?
It's really not just about creating and maintaining healthy, stable
learning environments anymore. The threat of global terrorism does not
simply stop at the nation's center of economic commerce. Those willing
to strap bombs onto their own children in order to kill a dozen people
are not beyond reaching out to attack a most precious resource -- the
nation's youth. And what better place and time to do just that than
while they are all gathered in one place?
What kind of leverage would a terrorist organization have over the
general public if they commanded the ability to destroy multiple school
campuses on a single, given day? And, if eight-year-old children can
walk into schools with automatic weapons today, how much easier would
it be for a terrorist organization to gain access with more lethal
School security issues often revolve around simple school yard
fights, parking lot vandalism and general conduct issues. All of these
are important. All are excellent reasons to deploy modern security
technologies. No reasons are as perilous as the schools of America
under siege from terrorists bent on using the buildings as hostage
centers, as was the case in Russia in 2004. Dozens of school districts
nationwide have single buildings that at any one moment can house twice
the number of students as people that were killed in the 9/11 attack.
Imagine this horrific scenario. Monday morning you wake up, go to
work and at lunch you learn there are 12 major school campus buildings,
each with no less than 3,000 students in them and scattered across the
United States, which have been taken over by terrorists. Three were
blown up with no survivors. The other nine are being held for the same
fate as the first three. That's 9,000 dead, another 27,000 held
hostage. Most are children. Maybe your children.
That might seem outlandish. Many would argue there are far greater
targets out there to be had -- chemical plants, nuclear power plants,
waste and water treatment facilities. Why would terrorists forego
high-profile targets like these and attack school facilities? The fact
is that they have and will. Remember Sept. 1, 2004, when a woman
suicide bomber in a Russian school blew herself up in the middle of the
crowded gym where more than 1,000 people are believed to have been held?
Schools Need Security Too
Everyone hopes and prays nothing like that never happens in the
United States. But the fact is it could. And if it did, one reason
might very well be because the target is much easier to take control of
compared to more traditional targets.
One also can make the argument that such a target creates far more
leverage in the favor of a terrorist than virtually any other target.
No one wants to think about schools in terms of needing airport-like
security. On the other hand, parents want their children to come home
safely every day. Times are simply not what they used to be. Oh, to be
a kid again -- that's something to think about.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Security Products, pg. 22.