Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools is firm in its resolve to improve upon the security protocol in the existing district-wide safety plan. Although soft measures are effective, school hardening is a vital component of campus security. Evidence shows that a comprehensive, full scope security plan is most effective in not only dramatically mitigating the risk of an active shooter situation, but also drastically minimizing response time. While the current plan meets New York State requirements, it does not meet our standards of providing the level of protection our children need and deserve.
Our School Security Plan addresses and corrects current deficiencies to ensure that each school campus is best prepared for an active shooter situation. This is accomplished with the most effective use of personnel, resources, and training. Our core purpose is to reinstate and expand effective hard measures and improve upon existing security procedures. We acknowledge that some of the 8 points are already being implemented by the school district.
SPFSS 8 Point School Security Plan is modeled after Americans for CLASS (Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety). CLASS is a grassroots organization spearheaded by Andrew Pollack, a Parkland parent who was recently appointed to the State Board of Education in Florida.
Improve upon the current perimeter security with conspicuously and strategically placed cameras to provide a deterrent and effective monitoring. Cameras should be monitored in real-time by designated security team personnel.
Actively monitored outer perimeters such as parking lots, playgrounds and extended property areas can alert the security team before an active shooter makes it to the building.
Although stated in the current plan, the monitored single/limited points of entry into school need to be guarded by security team personnel. A protective film or solid material may also be considered to reinforce glass doors and windows that could serve as access points for intruders.
Since most school buildings have two sets of doors at front entrances to meet building fire codes, an extra security measure should include moving visitor registration into this vestibule. The second set of doors should remain locked until approval of a visitor is granted.
Response time is a critical factor in regards to survival rates during an active assailant situation.
Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools recognizes the importance of reducing emergency response time, and therefore demands that our children’s security, which was in place for 30 years without incident, be reinstated, and that we provide security to every campus in our district.
The National Association of School Resource Officers recommends that there should be at least one armed School Resource Officer per 1,000 students, teachers, and staff, and one per campus, minimally.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report recommends additional security, either School Resource Officer or School Safety Officer (SSO = grounds monitor) designated full time at each campus as backup to the primary School Resource Officer.
Further, the MSDHS Public Safety Commission report recommends a written contingency plan for when a designated SRO/SSO (grounds monitor) cannot be on campus due to sickness, disability, vacation, etc.
School Resource Officers undergo extensive, specialized training to not only provide armed protection, but also aid by becoming invaluable resources within the school community. The presence of these officers increases the feeling of safety among students and staff, fosters positive relationships with students, and helps develop strategies to resolve problems affecting students at school.
Like SROs, School Safety Officers (grounds monitors) are our first line of defense in an emergency situation. SSOs are an incredibly important resource used to identify and intervene in conflict situations between students. Working alongside the School Resource Officer, they are in constant communication with administration, teachers, and students. School Safety Officers complete standardized, specialized training required under HR. 218 and have an active conceal carry permit. NASRO recommends they complete the SSO training coursework provided by their organization, and be tied into the city/county emergency management system. The Saratoga Springs Police Department recommends that School Safety Officers be required to participate in active shooter training on an ongoing basis with the city police department or county sheriff’s office.
Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools agrees with the experts, including our Saratoga Springs Police Department, that a comprehensive, multi-discipline, team-based approach is the best way to maintain school safety. The school district should therefore provide counseling, mental health, and school safety personnel where necessary.
Each school should have a small team who works closely with the SRO and Grounds Monitor to meet regularly regarding lock-down drills, security assessments, and general security concerns/updates as they unfold. Each school should have a designated member who will report back to the District Safety Specialist and school board on a regular basis. This will ensure transparency and accountability at all levels.
The school security team should consult with organizations such as CLASS and Safe and Sound Schools for free and low cost online training for school administrators, campus safety professionals, school boards, campus security/SROs, parent/teacher groups, and other community stakeholders.
We must ensure that each school campus is consistent with how parents are being contacted in the event of a school safety incident. Test current emergency notification:
- Is it fast and reliable?
- Does it have multi-modal messaging capability?
- Does it have a secure mobile broadcasting app in order to send notifications from a phone or tablet?
- Is it a time-tested emergency notification system?
- Who are the individuals responsible for activating the system?
The district should reevaluate current mental health services and programs for students to ensure that all the necessary resources for students are available. Mandatory training should be conducted regularly for all school personnel and should include crisis intervention, bully prevention, and learning the signs of someone who may be a danger to themselves and/or others. Each school should have a dedicated mental health counselor who meets regularly with students.
If you see something, say something. A notification system to receive anonymous calls, texts, or emails from a concerned student, faculty member, or community stakeholder should be in place, publicized and promoted throughout the school, as well as the community via:
- Board Meetings
- Home/School Association meetings
- Local and social media
It is our hope that the proactive measures that we propose are never needed. Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools acknowledges that isolation and alienation can be contributing factors to poor mental health, and we support activities for students that are designed to combat feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.