Are our schools really under siege by pedophiles, psychopaths and mass murders? Are these people really buzzing our front doors, signing into our guest registry then spreading evil and terror in the hallways and classrooms? I don't think so. However if you fall into the trap of believing the hype in our media, social networks and vendors that feed off this hysteria you may find yourself taking burdensom and expensive steps to combat this mystical perception...when in reality it has very little impact on actual school safety.
I am asked on a regular basis about all types of software and visitor access control systems that vendors are soliciting schools to buy or subscribe to. All too often when you start asking the hard questions such as "how may pedophiles has your system intercepted?" or "how many mass violence acts has the software stopped?" these folks become oddly quiet or cite vague studies or statistics. Many of these statistics reveal no more frequency of occurance than Ninja's parachuting onto our school roofs and climbing into our duct work to attack us.
The simple reality is REAL EVIL doesn't care what your access system is and it is not going to stop by and sign in. It is going to show up unannounced and with little regard to your protocol.
School safety and security dollars are limited. Money can be better spent than buying software of fancy gadgets such as thermal sensitive name tags. Don't blindly spend your money in the name of "keeping our children safe". All to often we are being exploited into spending money we don't need to out of guilt or emotion. Here are few suggestions when designing a visitor accountability system:
1. Keep it simple so people faithfully follow the protocol.
2. Maintain a log book of those people that have been identified as a threat to the school or have restricted access due to past behaviors. Keep this log close to the front desk for easy reference and get pictures of these folks whenever practical. People included in this log may have protection from abuse orders, child custody arrangements or people served with trespass notices to your campus because of past incidents.
3. Use pre-printed self-adhesive visitor badges with VISITOR clearly written in large letters. Under the visitor title have a place for their name, destination and date and time. For example "Mrs. Smith's 3rd grade class". Finally before handing the person the visitors badge, stamp it with a pre-inked date stamp (Monday, August 26, 2015). By the way I found these badges on Amazon for $12.50 for a roll of 500 with free shipping.
3. Maintain a simple sign-in log. name, purpose of visit, time in and time out.
4. Confirm appointments. If someone arrives and says they are hear to drop off cookies at Mrs. Smith's room, then call down to Mrs. Smith and confirm she is expecting cookies. Otherwise don't let the person into the building.
These simple steps can create an easy process to account for visitors and weed out those who do not have legitimate purposes. Don't fall into the hype that we are under siege. WE ARE NOT. Statistically our schools are safer than the communities they reside in. In other words our kids are in more danger traveling to and from school then they ever are once they arrive on campus.
This is John Baker for safetysolutions4schools.com. If you would like to talk about more practical and proportionate responses to school safety give us a call. Image courtesy of www.amazon.com.