Here is a list of some of the characteristics of a Safe School. How does your child's school compare?
What is a "Safe School".
1. All of the schools exterior doors are locked, including the front entrance, when children are already in the school. The front entrance should be visible to office personnel who should be able to remotely allow entrance to individuals after seeing who they are. An alternative is to allow free entry at the front door, but have the attendance desk vestible a secured area from which no further penetration into the school can be obtained without permission.
2. All of the exterior Doors are windowless steel and equipped with locks that are not easily compromised.
3. If kept locked, the front door and entryway glass should be bulletproof (the Sandy Hook murderer shot his way in through a locked door). Any bulletproof barrier can eventually be breached, but is placed there to delay the attacker and give time for the personnel in the attendance and administrative offices to arm themselves, issue a "code red" to the school, make the initial 911 call, and prepare to respond.
4. The entryway vestibule in most schools abuts up against an attendance desk, which often contains a computer for check-in and/or visitor credentials. Often there is a pathway from this area back into both the administrative offices and the school hallways, usually without barriers. In the some schools this vestibule area is large enough to accommodate the usual influx of parents, teachers, and students with notes that sometimes occurs at the beginning of the school day.
In the safe school, the attendance desk is behind a secure wall with a bank teller type opening that shields the attendance personnel from a potential attacker who has breached the front door and reached the attendance vestibule. A check-in computer to register visitors and to provide credentials can be set on a small table in the vestibule area. In the safe school there is no unhindered path directly from this vestibule area to the administrative offices and the school hallways. Attendance personnel in the office can allow in those persons that they wish to enter the school. The front plate of the attendance desk itself should be designed to prevent a high-powered rifle bullet from passing through, thus providing the attendance personnel with a safe shield to hide behind, should an attacker enter into the vestibule area.
Note that these comments pertain to times after the children have arrived and before they leave. The arrival and departure times are the school's most vulnerable times because the large number of people moving in or out of the school will require other access portals to be open. At a safe school, the additional entry and exit points will have to be secured when the mass movement of students is over.
5. In a safe school personnel behind the check-in desk or attendance desk are trained and armed. Weapons are not visible, but they reside on individuals and contain full loads of ammunition. Additional magazines of ammunition are carried by each individual according to the individual school district's desires.
6. In a safe school access to the public address system is available from several points in the school so that a "code red" call can be made from any of a number of locations. Note that if the public address system can only be accessed from the attendance desk at the front office or one of the administrative offices near this attendance desk, then access to it may be rapidly eliminated by an aggressive group of attackers, preventing the needed "code red" call to go out. It is possible to access PA systems using a personal cell phone provided that the phone number is distributed. This number should be tightly controlled, so that's students did not gain access to it, and so that potential attackers cannot call it and tied up to prevent the alarm being sounded.
7. Outside doors should be kept locked at all times. This is particularly true of doors that are used by smokers when they exit to go to a smoking area. Intense training should be given to personnel in the school to prevent them from blocking such rear doors open with a small rock or piece of wood so they don't have to use their keys to get back in. This is critical. If an attacker or a child molester can enter the rear door, then he will be able to reach classrooms and bathrooms unimpeded. Per local fire codes, these exit doors must have crash bars making it easy for people in the school to exit during an emergency. These doors should close automatically and latch.
8. In a safe school the classroom doors must be a significant strength in order to delay an attacker entering a classroom from the hallway in order to give the personnel inside the classroom time to withdraw their weapons and direct the students into the safest location and position. The design should be such that it gives the teacher as much information as possible about who is waiting to enter the classroom, for example, a side panel on the wall near the door can be of bulletproof glass. Again, this slows down the attacker and allows the teacher to see not only students returning from the restroom, or students with messages from the office, but what in general is going on out in the hallway. A blank wall leaves the teacher blind, and an unsecured glass panel that can be easily broken subjects the teacher in the classroom to attack from outside in the hallway with little or no warning.
Classroom doors should close automatically and latch in a locked condition so that any entry into the classroom requires the use of the key, unless someone from inside the classroom opens the door. At no time while children are in the classroom should the classroom door be left in the unlocked condition. An alternative to this is to have a door designed with a magnetically controlled lock, such that the door can be rapidly locked by moving a small magnet on the inside face the door, causing the door lock to engage. This will allow freer access to the classroom from the hallway, allows very fast lock-down time (no keys required), and still allows the door to be secured quickly if a commotion occurs down the hallway from the classroom. This arrangement does weaken security somewhat and leaves the possibility that a quiet intruder who somehow gains access to the inside of the school could walk into the classroom, such as happened at Sandy Hook, and begin murdering children.
9. In modern classrooms the Windows are usually unable to be opened for reasons related to the operation of the air-conditioning system. In a safe school these windows on the first floor should provide an alternate escape route if the classroom door is no longer safe.
10. Most classrooms are a dead end box. However, some classrooms, such as a science lab area, may have a rear door that opens into a science equipment and chemical storage area. This area can provide space for the students to hide in the case of an attack, provided that the storage area door can also be secured or locked from inside the storage area. To save costs, it is not uncommon to find two science rooms adjacent each other with a common storage room between them. This may allow escape for the students in one room through the storage area into the second classroom, or may allow both classrooms of students to hide. This works best if at the first sign of trouble the students are herded into the storage area and the room lights are turned off to make the room appeared to be vacant. Turning the room's lights off in one classroom at Sandy Hook is thought to have prevented the killer from choosing that room.
11. In a safe school all teachers and staff (custodians, janitors, maintenance personnel, cafeteria workers, secretaries, attendance desk personnel, the principal, vice principal, the school counselor, and the school nurse) should all be trained and be concealed carrying each day that they work at the school. Of course, there may be exceptions for teachers or staff that the school district administrative personnel and the principal believe would be best to not carry a weapon for whatever reason. A safe school contains many weapons under control of good people, providing an in-depth defense against any killer who comes in the school. (See item 5 listed for Real Protection)
12. Most schools practice a fire drill on some periodic basis. In the case of a killer in the school it is not a good idea to have the students evacuate the school in the manner of a fire drill (walk don't run). Therefore, in a safe school a new set of exit procedures should be developed and practiced that focus on rapid egress using whatever cover is available. Note also that during a fire drill, students usually exit to some location, such as a parking lot or playing field, where they then stand waiting for the all-clear signal to return to their classrooms. If this is done when a shooter is in the building, this group of students standing together presents a very dangerous situation for them should the shooter began shooting into the crowd. Therefore, when students exit the school building rapidly during an emergency because of a killer, they should move far enough away from the school to be out of sight of the building. After these emergency egress procedures are thoroughly planned and written, they should be discussed in detail with the student body, perhaps in assembly or with each individual class teacher, and then practiced.
13. In a safe school it would be a good idea if the students were introduced to what to expect when they exit and meet the police with a killer in the school. The students must understand that the police do not know who or where the killer is, and that they should expect the police to treat them as a potential threat. This should be coordinated with local police department.
14. For a safe school, both the fire department and police should have up-to-date diagrams showing the floor plan of the school. From this floor plan, tactical knowledge can be obtained to aid training the teachers as to how to move in the school and protect themselves and their students. Teachers and staff of safe schools must work with people from the local police department so that the police are familiar with the school and its operation. If a killer is in room 203, as reported via cell phone during an incident, the floor plans will allow the police to quickly assess the best tactics to use to rapidly stop the assault, and after the murderer is dealt with, will allow fire and emergency medical personnel to go directly to the casualties.