Research shows how schools adopt access control

NASSLEO, NASRO and Wren Solutions partner on school access study

Caster added that he doesn't think that security funding for schools will change for the better anytime soon.

"I'm not very optimistic that there's going to be very much money to put this technology into schools," said Caster.

Lockdown technologies

One thing also learned in the research is that three-fourth of respondents were not sure they could lock down their school in the case of an emergency. And only 28 percent of respondents were confident that their exterior doors would securely lock in the case of an emergency lockdown.

Admittedly a lockdown, noted NASRO's Richard Caster, can take many forms. A lockdown in one situation could mean closing and securing exterior doors. In another place, it could be more of a "shelter in place" situation where classrooms or wings of a facility need to be locked down because the threat is inside the building.

The problem, of course, is that there are so many doors to be concerned with in a school environment – especially at high schools.

"A high school with 2,000 kids has a lot of doors," said Caster. "The thing with most schools is that lockable interior doors is an issue right now. Many schools don't have lockable interior doors.

But Caster said also that lockdowns mean much more than deadbolts and magnetic locks. He says that preparing for lockdowns also means training staff on new policies.

"When we encourage schools to do lockdown drills, we tell the teachers who lock a classroom or area of the school that 'You don't open that door for anybody, even if you recognize that voice,' When the situation is done, it is the administrator who should then unlock the doors from the outside."

Still, the research does indicate that schools generally recognize the value of lock-down technologies like an electronic access control system. Ninety-one percent of the respondents said it was critical to be able to lock down the school if an emergency were to happen; they just aren't able to do so yet.

Commenting about the research, both Caster and Wren Solutions' President Andy Wren agreed that before adopting any new security technology, schools really have to examine their risk profile. And both agreed that one thing is changing for the better: The school resource officer or school police officer is becoming more and more of a risk and security consultant. Besides being recognized as member of law enforcement in the school halls and cafeterias, Wren and Caster said the SRO should be sitting as part of the emergency planning meetings and conducting assessments of the school.

"We are seeing the role of the SRO change," said Caster. "Any school that is fortunate to have an SRO has a ready resource of information that most administrators don't have. They need to be at the table for crisis management -- we're talking natural disasters as well as manmade. That person will bring the expertise of what they learned in the academy. Most of our officers in schools will have also served some time on the streets. They are becoming an integral part of security planning. You're wasting a resource if you don't involve him or her."

Andy Wren said that besides the changing role of the SRO, schools are being forced to consider access control as they examine their risk profile. In the research, they found that 93 percent of schools that use electronic access control were using it at the front doors and main entrances. Very few were using identity-based electronic access control inside the school, and electronic access was rarely used to secure science chemical storage areas. This he says, indicates that schools and the public "may not fully understand their risks."

The research was the third part in a four-part series of research that Wren is doing on school security. Previous research examined security at schools in Texas and the Midwest.