For those of you with kids or grandkids in school, the school year begins now. Here’s your homework: evaluate your kid’s school for safety and security. Sometimes school administrators aren’t up to speed on best practices or aren’t aware of their own security shortcomings. You can help them with that. After all, it’s your kid who will benefit.
Visit the school. If you as a layperson see obvious security weak points like unlocked or propped open exterior doors during school hours, reach out and let them know about it. Locked doors are inconvenient to staff, but they save lives by slowing down attackers and buy time for a lockdown protocol’s implementation.
Pay attention to the little things before school or at dismissal time, too. Aside from unsecured doors, other obvious security failings including allowing random people free access into service entrances or onto school property/playgrounds (especially if they’re carrying things like backpacks, or containers that a long gun would fit inside). If you see that, contact the school administration right away to remedy these issues. Ditto if you observe any sort of suspicious behavior. Be polite and courteous, but make that call.
If the school administration isn’t responsive to identified shortcomings, contact the superintendent and if that fails, visit the school board. School shootings and mass casualty incidents are on everyone’s mind. No sane school district is going to risk the negative publicity and potential liability of ignored requests for security problems to be remedied.
What’s more, there may be other issues that you didn’t notice. Ask questions about security and “grade” officials’ responses. If they don’t have a plan or haven’t revisited it in years, that needs fixing. We as parents can help nudge school officials towards improving safety if it’s lacking.
If your local schools don’t have a school resource officer (SRO) – especially high schools and even junior highs in larger communities, take some time to advocate for one to the administrators, the school board and local city government.
By the same token, if your kid’s school does have a school resource officer who isn’t professional or proactive, or has one foot out the door awaiting retirement, contact the police chief and have a meeting to share your concerns.
Also, visit the NRA’s School Shield website to learn more. They have a wealth or resources and videos.
The life you save by speaking up and getting involved might be that of your own child.
Here are some questions to put to your school officials.
1. Has our school ever had a vulnerability assessment done?
2. Does our school work with local law enforcement and emergency responders in crisis planning and training?
3. When was our emergency operations/crisis management plan last reviewed?
4. What types of drills are conducted at our school and at what frequency?
5. Are all exterior doors of our school locked during instructional hours?
6. Are all visitors to our school required to check in with the main office?
7. Are students and staff trained on how to identify and report suspicious or concerning behaviors/comments?
8. Does our school have a behavioral threat assessment team?
9. If there is an emergency, how and when are parents/ guardians notified?
10. Do we have designated security personnel assigned to our school? If so, are they armed/unarmed?