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The Challenge of Responding to Security Threats

Since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, school safety and security have become a growing concern. Schools began the search for security measures to minimize the possibility of students and faculty facing lethal risk. Data from the NCES shows that from 2000 until 2018, access control practices increased by roughly 20%, the use of a faculty badge system increased by 70%, and the implementation of security cameras increased by over 60% in schools across America.

According to Education Week, crime on school grounds has been reduced from 85% of public schools in 2010 to 77% in 2019.1 This statistic supports the addition of standard security measures being implemented in schools; however, this type of security hasn't been able to defend from nor respond to violence effectively.

The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) highlighted data from the 2017-18 school year reporting 71% of schools experienced at least one violent incident and 21% experienced a serious violent incident.

Over the 2019-20 school year, NCES found that 70% of schools experienced one or more violent incidents on their campus while 25% experienced a serious violent incident.3

While these data points are from different organizations, the numbers show a 4% increase in serious violent incidents even though the use of surveillance cameras, access control, and other security systems on school grounds are at all-time highs.

There are serious concerns about security at schools in America and how to respond with effective solutions to reduce incidents and ensure a safe environment. How police and emergency services react to threats is an area of significant focus. Police response is based on the available information at the time. Increased volume of information can hinder response unless that information is relevant, accurate, and timely. Rapid and efficient response requires immediate access to the right information about the incident and the location of individuals.

The top ten states with the highest number of threats and incidents mirror the top 10 most populous states with one exception, Georgia. While Georgia is a top 10 population state, it is not on the top 10 most violent list; Virginia takes its place.  

To effectively secure a school, multiple technologies must work together. Every school has a different layout, population size, and funding, meaning that one set of security solutions isn’t going to work for all. Every state has different regulations and grant systems for their schools, which in turn makes it difficult for security companies to be integrated nationwide. Often, we see security consultants evaluating a campus and giving a recommendation on how to best secure it by utilizing grant and school budget money. While these technologies are marketed and referred to as solutions for school security, nothing is certain to protect a school from a threat.

While there may not be an all-encompassing perfect solution for school security, there are guidelines that aim to help schools determine the current state of their safety measures and what they can do to improve it. The Partner for Alliance for Safe Schools (PASS) was co-founded in 2012 by the National Systems Contractor Association (NSCA) and SIA to help provide procedures and guidelines that schools can take to ensure better safety and security for students. It provides a checklist that helps schools understand the state of their security and recommends measures to mitigate the risk of a violent intruder.

Security technology can be complicated to understand and control effectively, and school staff is no exception. Education and training are typically required. Companies aim to simplify security for schools, and easy installation, wider compatibility, and simplistic operability are necessary steps towards that aim.

Standardizing, creating, and implementing security practices catered to the needs of individual schools is critical. Several states have instituted base security requirements for schools, such as New Jersey, Florida, and New York approving Alyssa’s Law. This law requires K-12 intuitions to equip their campuses with silent panic buttons that are connected to law enforcement.

Time will tell how these new technologies perform. School security technology is advantageous, but currently, more metrics are needed to evaluate tech used for school safety. Technology cannot guarantee flawless defense against security breaches and threats, but it can help reduce the chance of a dangerous situation occurring and create efficiencies in emergency response.

Technology is becoming an essential component in strengthening a campus against possible threats. While this technology is well-developed and powerful, it takes the members of the school and community to help it reach its best potential.

Parks Associates new research whitepaper, Leveraging Tech to Improve Safety and Security in Schools, provides an overview of technologies that enhance security in school buildings and highlights market insights and legislation that support the increasing demand for innovative technology that can have a dramatic impact on school safety.

Parks Associates recognizes and thanks the following experts for their contribution to this work:

  • Alex Bertelli – Havenlock
  • Jennifer Doctor - Johnson Controls
  • Peter Giacalone Giacolone – Giacolone Associates
  • Merlin Guilbeau, IOM – ESA
  • Mark Hatten - Mutualink
  • Jennifer (Wysocki) Lytle – Chamberlain
  • Kirk MacDowell – MacGuard Security Advisors, SIAC, SIA
  • Thomas Nakatani - ADT
  • Mani Ram - Gadgeon
  • Kelly Shumaker – LiftMaster
  • Jake Voll - SS&Si Dealer Network

1 EdWeek, School Crime and Safety: What a Decade of Federal Data Show, Libby Standford July 8, 2022, https:/www.

2 Exploring School Violence and Safety Concerns, Emilee Green, November 23, 2020, https:/ researchhub/articles/exploring-school-violence-and-safety-concerns

3 NCES Fast Facts: School Crime, https:/

Thank you for the continued support of our research. We welcome comments and feedback on our research work.  

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