Campus Safety and Security
American Schools Today
CCUSD’s Point of View
The source of violence in American elementary schools comes from outsiders, which requires additional security measures around the exterior and perimeter but supports a more open interior environment. Elementary schools also have the daily threat of issues such as custody battles, and therefore require extra layers of security at the entrance.
Middle and High Schools
Tragic occurrences at middle and high schools are largely carried out by students who have not made strong connections with their peers or teachers. In many cases, triggers such as bullying or mental health issues have not been identified. Future ready learning environments can help get to the root of this type of violence and prevent it through increasing transparent connectedness. One example of how this can be done in these Ed Specs is the Small Learning Community planning principle with smaller groupings to help students and teachers connect more easily.
Concepts and Ideas
There are roughly 56 million students in K-12 education across the country and schools are still one of the safest places in the country. The question is how can we improve safety and security in our schools? We can always do better.
A Holistic Approach
A holistic approach to improve safety and security is recommended and understanding that what is good for future-ready learning environments also supports safety. The relational interaction between human, environmental, and technological tenets is critical to the development of safer schools. The foundation of safe and secure schools is the development of healthy relationships between students and teachers. Future design teams must create spaces where students feel comfortable with their physical and human surroundings and contribute to building a positive culture. Collaboration is key to building that culture. Micro environments like learning studios need to be furnished flexibly to support collaboration instead of individual desks all facing the front. The Welcome Center, Administration Community Hub includes an important feature to support safety and security: an inviting entry where parents feel welcome and want to get involved. Features like soft seating, a coffee bar, and display of student work are features that communicate to parents they are welcome, and the school wants to engage them.
Concepts and Ideas
Biophilic Design Benefits
Biophilic Design which incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the built environment is another way to keep students and teachers engaged and mentally and physically healthy. Studies have shown:
Lower blood pressure and stress hormones
Improved physical health, including sleep patterns, heart rate, and even dental decay
Improved teacher mental restoration leading to increased retention
More positive attitudes about school
Improved performance on math and reading
Ability to restore “focused attention” throughout the day
Creative thinking patterns
Higher end-of-semester grades
CCUSD campuses are safe yet feel welcoming and the staff believes there is room for improvement in specific areas. The Community is tightly-knit and highly engaged while the District continues to increase staff for counseling and places great importance on social emotional learning, celebrating each child for who they are. It takes an entire Community working together to provide a safe and secure environment where everyone feels connected, valued and safe.
Layers of Security
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) strategies should be used as a checklist in future projects. The list below shows some of the fundamental strategies from CPTED to use:
Provide adequate lighting and landscaping techniques are important factors in the “see and be seen” approach to prevent crime. Sufficient lighting in parking areas and outside circulation zones increases student, parent and staff safety, especially after hours.
Natural access control
Use walkways, fencing, lighting, signage and landscape to direct people and vehicles to and from entries.
Natural territorial reinforcement
Clearly define private areas from public areas to deter trespassers. Good landscape design can contribute to this. For example, if fencing is needed it should look aesthetically pleasing and non-institutional. Setting fences back so there is a “no man’s land” buffer of landscape that would make a person walking in that zone stand out as an intruder prevents intruders from talking to students or being able to access to them. Examples were shared in the visioning sessions at the evening community engagement meetings.
Perimeter Security and Single Point of Entry
Many campuses have issues such as problematic gate hardware, gate hardware that does not meet the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) code, gates that need to be wider in the event of the entire school population needing to evacuate and layers of security missing such a gate at Admin. In some cases, the Admin office layout makes is difficult to properly screen visitors. The detailed site committee reports that DLR Group made at the time of the master plans and Ed Specs show specific ways to resolve perimeter security issues for each campus.
Best practices include:
Use the Welcome Center and Admin as a control point, providing staff with eyes on the street and the security vestibule
One single point of entry during school time (multiple supervised entries OK when students arrive and leave)
Electronic keypads and keycards at gates
Exit code analysis to be done on each site to ensure gates are wide enough for school population to exit safely once they are outside and locating adequately sized on-campus safe dispersal areas
Site lighting to cover parking lots, spaces for evening events and the areas used for pick-up for After Care and Pre-K (due to pick up occurring after sunset in winter months)
When possible, use buildings as the campus edge instead of fences and keep the campus exterior sight lines open.
Concepts and Ideas
Joint Use with Parks
Site Supervision Challenges
Playground supervising staff must have clear lines of sight. When renovating campuses, scattered buildings should be removed to open wider sight lines. The Ed Specs aim to greatly increase the use of Outdoor Learning adjacent to indoor learning spaces to extend the footprint, giving students more space for multiple styles of learning such as project-based learning. Transparency is required for the teachers or after school staff to have a direct sight line to these new outdoor learning areas.
El Rincon and El Marino elementary schools have joint use agreements with adjacent public parks. This arrangement allows the public to use the campus playground before and after school. To make this safer, some of the master plans show an additional layer of security added such as a new fence located between the campus and park with a single point of entry to make it easier to see who is entering and to assess if that person might be a threat to student safety.
Concepts and Ideas
Building Safety and Security
Security cameras and other means of technology can be used to improve passive security measures, including an intrusion alarm system. The control to the lockdown system should be hidden under a desk with a view of the school’s main entry in the Administrative building. Design access control by zones. For example, a door to a building wing would lock down in an emergency.
Transparency for Interior Supervision
Incorporating transparency throughout the interior of a school provides opportunities for better visualization of the entire building to identify potential threats before they escalate and also creates an open, inviting learning environment that meets the educational needs of today’s generation of students.
Technology to Increase Security
The design team must include a technology specialist for systems design and infrastructure to integrate technology into the buildings – incorporating advanced IT, telecommunications, audiovisual, wireless, low voltage, and security into renovations or new buildings. Below is a list of thought starters for items to consider for improving safety and security while supporting the welcoming feel of CCUSD campuses focusing on visitor management and technology:
Create security vestibule at Admin in which a visitor needs to be cleared by receptionist before they enter the school.
Add visitor check-in and badging as needed for positive identification linked to police database for known offenders.
Classroom lockdown system for sheltering in place
Duress alarms (panic buttons) – sometimes also in Learning Spaces
Concepts and Ideas
Preventing Bullying and Drug Use
Bullying and vaping often occurs in toilet rooms. At elementary schools when adding toilet rooms, consider placing the sinks within view of circulation so bullies know there is an adult presence. For middle school and high school consider sinks inside the toilet rooms for girls’ bathrooms.
Laminated and Bullet Proof Glass
Consider laminated glass versus tempered glass, as laminated glass is more difficult to break through. Consideration of bullet resistant (ballistic) glass in selective areas or other similar products to increase safety that feels welcoming.
Fire Sprinklers for Renovations
In renovations, considers using sprinklers instead of pull stations to set off fire alarms. This concept is a reaction to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in Parkland, Florida who used the fire alarm pull stations to get students to run out of their classes so he could shoot them.
Supergraphics for First Responders
Agencies who respond to emergencies are recommending super graphics wayfinding signage instead of small room tags to help them get to the zone they need to attend to when there is a threat to safety. Supergraphics help first responders get to where they need to be quickly