New research from the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers (NASSLEO) and security technology firm Wren Solutions paints a picture of access control technology adoption at our nation's schools.
According the research, electronic access control systems are not used by most schools. Sixty-four percent of the survey's respondents said they were not using electronic access anywhere in their facilities. Ones that did use access control devices predominantly use them at main school entrances.
According to Andy Wren, president of Wren Solutions, a video surveillance technology firm which helped organize the research, the results paint a picture of slow adoption of access control technologies. And he says that doesn't surprise him in the least.
"Their job is to educate," said Wren. "Security is not always top of mind. Security has moved up the ladder in mindshare, but a lot of these schools still struggle to understand the need. There is access control in every building, obviously, because every [exterior] door has a lock on it, but a vast minority really have widespread deployments [of electronic access control]."
Budgets always a problem
According to Dr. Richard Caster, the executive director of the 8,000-member National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), many school safety professionals are very aware of security technologies, but there's not always money to buy these systems.
His sentiments were reflected in the Wren/NASRO/NASSLEO research, which found that of the 64 percent of schools not currently using electronic access control, almost three-fourths of those said that was due to funding. And if they were to spend money on upgrading school access control, just half said they would be using their existing school budget. Most (69 percent) said they would have to turn to grant money from the federal or state level.
"Money is an issue," said Caster. "Most schools would like better control over the building and at entrances, but it will always be a money issue. It's a matter of affordability. I keep telling them [security technology companies] that schools need good information and good advice on what they can do and what they can really afford."
Even though cost is often seen as a driving factor, Caster says that schools can sometimes find a return on investment by adoption electronic access control
"What we've found is that in the long run, it ends up saving you money," said Caster. "The problem with keys it that they get lost. Once a key is lost, it becomes a security problem. And then you have to change locks or tumblers. And there are problems with regular failure and vandalism, like a student putting glue in the lock."
Peter Pochowski, executive director of the 1,500-member National Association for School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers (NASSLEO), said that with budgets for security very tight, most schools have remained in a reactive stance.
"The best crisis plans are written the day after a crisis," noted Pochowski. "You have to wait until a crisis for that to happen. [Similarly,] schools tend to spend on security after a crisis."
Despite those problems, Pochowski said the money can be found if a school really needs it.
"Grant money is getting tight, but there is some grant money out there," said Pochowski. "You have to be creative in how you fund these."
Pochowski said that besides federal grant monies, some schools have done fundraisers and others have turned to non-profit foundations to help them boost their security. He also cautions schools to consider technology implementations on a case-by-case, local basis.
"There are people who use scare tactics in the education market to sell their security products," said Pochowski. "You are much more likely to be killed by lightning than to be killed in a school. People have to examine what is reasonable and what their school can afford."