Improving school security shouldn’t require major new expenditures, only a more thorough practice of existing policies, school board heard Monday night.
It’s not just great tragedies such as the one last year in Connecticut that warrant tighter security at district schools, said superintendent Terry Sullivan in response to a districtwide safety and security review.
“I think we need to get to the point where we just have better control over who’s coming and going in our buildings,” said Sullivan, who requested the staff review after last fall’s school shooting in the U.S. “I think this report underlines that we need to do better.”
He listed as important priorities better control of keys, use of nametags by itinerant staff who move from school to school and continuation of a policy requiring school visitors to use only front-office entry.
The report, compiled by a representative cross-section of personnel, gave high marks to overall school security in the district but points to inconsistencies in the application of policies and procedures, said health and safety manager Michelle Marginet.
“It’s not just inconsistent, it’s become lax,” Sullivan said. He said the policies need to be applied to all district buildings, not just schools.
Marginet said the objective is to enhance security and safety for all while not making schools into security fortresses.
After the Sandy Hook elementary tragedy, Sullivan issued a directive to administrators requiring that all schools be locked while classes are in session, forcing visitors to use main entrances. It’s at those times — when supervisors are not in hallways or in playfields — that schools are most vulnerable to potential threats, he noted.
Some parents objected to the new rule, but there has been wider acceptance over time, Marginet said.
She also noted that about half of the schools don’t afford a clear line of sight from the office to the parking lot because it wasn’t a priority when they were built 40 or 50 years ago.
Trustee Megan Wade said knowledge and continuity in themselves represent a level of deterrent. They also equip kids with knowledge that empowers rather than frightening them.
Sullivan will report back on progress at the end of the school year.
“We wanted to be public so we could raise some awareness.”