1. Define the Problem
First, understand the school’s internal and external environment regarding security and safety. A school may have many different potential threats to consider, including issues with violence, but the unique characteristics of its region, country, and demographics may also have an impact on how the school functions and how campus community members interact.
Prior to developing a security and safety program, school administrators should gather data to determine which specific issues to address and where protection and prevention efforts are necessary.
2. Identify Potential Threats and Protective Factors
Once school administrators have assessed the types of threats present in their schools and communities, the data collected can be analyzed from a risk-based perspective to identify common factors that influence the operational approach, protective measures, and weaknesses in security.
Identify incident trends to understand vulnerabilities, then start thinking about protective factors already in place, such as walkthroughs by local police officers, security procedures, technology, and training programs.
3. Develop and Test Prevention Strategies
Use the information gathered in the first two steps to create informed security strategies. Shaping security and safety plans based on a school’s specific problems, risks, and protective factors allows for a more targeted, effective approach to incident prevention, detection, and response.
Implement the new strategy—but don’t stop there. It may not work as well as expected. To make a long-term positive impact, continuously measure performance, test the strategy, and build on it based on newly-identified risks and improvement opportunities. Take corrective action when necessary.
4. Advocate Widespread Adoption
For security strategies to be effective, it is vital for everyone to be involved. Work within the leadership, the school, and the community at large to communicate goals, encourage adoption of security programs, and promote reporting methods. This will involve training staff, removing roadblocks for universal adoption, and distributing plans and protocols to stakeholders.
Too often, people take security and safety for granted. Remind everyone that effective programs exist and find creative ways to reward those who participate—because the only way to ensure better school security and safety is successful ongoing adoption of these programs.
5. Continue to Measure and Adapt
Building a safe school is a continuous process. As with any program or initiative, if a security program isn’t measured against baseline statistics, it’s impossible to know for sure if it’s an effective use of school resources.
Collecting and analyzing data can help school administrators discover underlying causes of violence, highlight areas for improvement, and determine the most effective prevention methods. Ultimately, using research to form, test, measure, and adjust school security and safety efforts is the best approach to building a safe school community.