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.
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 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 visitor is granted.
Response time is the most critical factor in survival rates during an active assailant situation. There should be at least one armed School Resource Officer and one armed School Safety Officer (SS0) designated full time at each campus. Additional SROs/School Safety Officers may be considered at the Middle and High School campuses. The National Association of School Resource Officers recommends at least one SRO per 1,000 students. Additionally, we recommend a written contingency plan for when a designated SRO cannot be on campus (sickness, disability, vacation, etc). SROs undergo extensive, specialized training to not only provide armed protection, but also valuable resources to the school community.
The presence of these officers increases feelings of safety among students and staff, fosters positive relationships with students and helps develop strategies to resolve problems affecting them at school. Like the SROs, School Safety Officers are our first line of defense and are an incredibly valuable resource. They work alongside the SROs and are in constant communication with administration, teachers and students. They would complete standardized specialized training required under HR. 218, have an active conceal carry permit, complete SRO & SSO training coursework provided by NASRO and be tied into the city/county emergency management system. They would also be required to participate in active shooter training on an ongoing basis with the city police department or county sheriff’s office.
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.
Enlist parent volunteers to help with safety assistance. These volunteers would be properly trained on what to watch for and when to make an emergency call. For example, during school functions with a tremendous increase in school visitors, a parent safety volunteer team would work collaboratively with the school safety team to ensure security measures are not compromised.
SPFSS would organize a schedule and responsibility chart for members of the volunteer team and could set up scheduled meetings as needed. The Network could also enlist the support of other grassroots organizations so that ideas and improvements can be constantly shared.
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 to be able to send notifications from a phone or tablet
- Is it a time-tested emergency notification experience?
- 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, sexual orientation sensitivity, and knowing the signs of someone who is 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. An anonymous system to receive anonymous calls, texts or emails from a concerned student, faculty member or community stakeholder should be publicized and promoted throughout the school as well as the community via:
- Board Meetings
- Home/School Association meetings
- Local and social media