A Few Thoughts on K-12 School Security

Blog Date:  5/1/2018
Author:  Ray Coulombe

I was recently asked to give a talk at ASSA ABLOY’s breakfast meeting at ISC West on the topic of K-12 security. What a shame that, five and a half years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, new tragedies rekindle horrific memories of the old.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to K-12 school security. Schools vary in so many ways: size, age, local environment, affluence, culture, governance, and more. Just as schools vary, so do available security options and solutions. Some people have told me that they know of situations where kids are asked to bring in rocks and soup cans to keep in their desks, available to chuck in self-defense at an attacker. Most conventional high-end security technologies will not be considered due to dollar constraints or the ability of personnel in these schools to use them.

Some basic principles do apply, however, such as defense-in depth. Think perimeter and work your way in. The new Sandy Hook Elementary School provides a good illustration. Driveway and parking lot layout design, with controlled access, provides added time to observe and control those coming on to the property. Landscape design provides natural barriers and controls sight lines. Exterior doors are controlled and hardened. Bullet and impact-resistant glass increases the time needed to penetrate it. People flow has been thought through.

Locking and lockdown strategies can be based on centralized or decentralized control, and the technologies to implement can range from mechanical to electronic and wireless. Budgets may limit options, but they should not limit careful thought and creative thinking.

Also, as technology is deployed, greater thought is needed around how to best use the technology in place to provide emergency responders with timely information. I’m thinking voice communications, video feeds, social posts, etc. to provide the best possible situational awareness and response. Jerry Wilkins of Active Risk Survival has been a strong advocate of this, working with Commend USA.

Some really good resources exist out there for further study. FEMA provides a number of online courses free of charge, in addition to its on-site programs. SIA and NSCA provide great content at passk12.org, including a state by state required funding analysis. Manufacturers, too, provide various useful information. For example, see ASSA ABLOY’s page for more details. This is in addition to their education programs and site survey opportunities.


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