Schools Behind Bars?

Designing safe and secure environments for schools and colleges doesn't mean they need to look like detention facilities

* Have self-engaging locking mechanisms on all windows.

* Provide landscape buffers to reduce access to vulnerable graffiti walls.

* Provide piano hinges on vulnerable external doors to reduce access for vandalism.

* Rooftop air conditioning units require access, and any pull down ladders should be secured and locked, or placed inside of a building to restrict access.

* Be careful of placement of utility boxes along side of building walls that could provide climbing access to the roofs or balconies.

* If basketball courts are exposed, provide an external water fountain to reduce need to climb over fences to get water.

* If basketball, volleyball, or tennis courts are attracting nuisance behavior after hours, remove the nets and hoops and end of day to stop any opportunity for use. Consider relocating the courts and lights in areas where there can be natural surveillance and supervision of responsible adults or capable guardians.

* Be sensitive to placements of internal space protection devices near air conditioning vents or exhaust grills, as the vibrations of the compressor kicking on can trigger false alarms.

* Doors and frames must be institutional grade to withstand heavy use and abuse. Faceplates should be used over locks to prevent jimmying.

* Reconsider the use of student lockers. The trend is for no lockers and to encourage the use of clear or transparent backpacks. Athletic lockers would only be used during the class and overnight storage prohibited.

* School boundaries and exercise areas should be fenced with vandal-resistant picket type fencing.

* All fire exits should be exit only with no handles for reentry. Doors should be alarmed and have door position switches to notify staff if the door is opened.

* Limit the number of buildings to as few as possible, preferably one, to restrict access to outsiders and illegitimate users.

* Minimize the entrances to as few as possible, preferably one for student and faculty, use to restrict access to legitimate building users.

* Allow for a security person to be positioned at a single entrance onto the school campus to challenge each vehicle for identification of all occupants, if needed. Buses and school employees would have their own separate and controlled entrance.

* Minimize the number of driveways or parking lots that students use to walk across to gain entry to the school.

* Allow for the ability to lock off the rest of the campus from the gym during after-hours activities.

* Provide a conduit for present and future communication and security systems in the classrooms and common areas.

Randall Atlas Ph.D., AIA, CPP, is vice-president of Atlas Safety and Security Design Inc., and President of Counter Terror Design Inc., in Miami. Randy is a nationally recognized trainer, author, and practitioner in the field known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and in architectural security design, where he teaches for the Institute of Community security and Public Safety (ICSPS), the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Florida Atlantic University. For more information, visit or call 800-749-6029.