Creating Secure Zones at School
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Apr 01, 2013
How secure is your school? Maybe you worry
when your children leave in the morning that
they won’t come home filled with knowledge
and understanding. Perhaps their security is a question
School security concerns are omnipresent.
It is stunning how Dallas/Fort Worth schools must
daily battle security issues of one kind or another.
The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) recently
made an impressive investment of $4.65 million
to boost security at secondary schools, and install
the first major safety measures at the district’s
More than 150 DISD campuses will have cameras,
buzzers and electronic card readers in the near future
under a school security upgrade plan. The upgrades
include an eight-camera video recording system, triggered
by motion, at each of the 150 elementary schools.
Upgrades also will include a buzzer system at the
front door of each elementary school, connected to
an intercom, a color camera and require the receptionist
to unlock the door. Electronic card readers will
be placed at side doors of elementary schools that allow
only DISD staff to enter. The district will install
one-way peepholes on the 1,200 portable units to allow
someone to look outside during a lockdown at
To me, that is putting your money where your
It is not all about DISD. There are numerous districts
in the area that are having or have had trouble
keeping a lid on security. During the final two weeks
of February, Highland Park High School (HPHS), in
an upscale neighborhood in the Dallas Metroplex, was
threatened by a string of alarming notes left in the high
school. At one point, a note with .22 caliber bullets was
left in a boys’ restroom.
I wonder, who does this kind of stuff, and why?
University Park police and FBI have been called to
investigate. This kind of activity isn’t funny.
On the same day as one of the Highland Park
emergencies, a bomb threat was called in at the Spring
Creek Campus of Collin College in Plano, Texas.
Once again, education comes to a standstill as the
caller insisted that there were several bombs placed
throughout the campus. This was the second time in
nine days that a threat was made at this campus.
This isn’t just about schools in the Dallas area.
School districts nationwide are being pushed to the
limits when handling threats.
Now, four months after the shooting at Sandy
Hook, Connecticut lawmakers have moved forward to
fortify their schools. The state’s Bipartisan Task Force
on Gun Violence Protection and Children’s Safety has
recommended refurbishing security infrastructure,
plus providing additional mental health resources in
schools. They plan to address school infrastructure,
staffing, emergency plans and violence prevention.
State Sen. Toni Boucher, (R), co-chair of the task
force, said that support for the proposals has been
unanimous among subcommittee members, and the
group plans to re-establish the School Security Competitive
Grant Program, that allows schools to compete
for money to update security systems. If additional
funds are received, some of the school renovations
might include ballistic glass, electronic locks and double-
door vestibules at the entrance of a school.
The Newtown shooting has changed how parents
see school safety and has led to a renewed interest
and focus on security. Parents used to think that when
their child was in school, they were safe. That is no
longer true. There have been numerous shootings and
violent acts on U.S. campuses in recent years.
Following Sandy Hook, the White House jumped
into the fray of school security. Its response was
heavy on gun control and very short on funding for
school safety, security and emergency preparedness.
The White House released a 15-page report on Jan.
16 that directly addressed school safety, security and
emergency preparedness. Unfortunately, only three
of those pages dealt with safety and security. Almost
nine pages dealt with gun control; two and a half pages
focused on mental health issues.
The failure of Congress and Mr. Obama to immediately
address the need for front-line school principals
and safety officials to better secure buildings and
prepare for emergencies has been an embarrassment.
The level of funding—$150 million—is seriously
flawed. Local schools should receive the money, rather
than it being sent to state education departments,
where it will be wasted on administrative costs and a
If you or I were given $150 million, that would be
a lot of money. However, it is merely a drop in the
bucket of education funding—on average of $3 million
received per state.
The first priority of the federal government should
be to protect its people. There is no better place to
start than in our schools.
It seems to me the shootings in Sandy Hook have
been used to political advantage, eliminating programs
that dealt with school violence prevention, security,
security equipment and restoration of schoolbased
Congress and the White House can do something
meaningful to help principals secure their schools and
reduce parental anxiety by opening an honest dialog
about school security without mixing in gun control.
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Security Today.