10 Questions Parents Need to Ask About School Security

Summer is winding down.  That means school has started, or is about too, depending on where in the country you are.  Amidst the rush to get supplies, school clothes and back to a more hectic pace of life, parents should ask some basic questions about their kids’ school security.  Schools are normally safe havens for our children, but are very vulnerable to becoming a target.  They are generally ‘soft’ targets with little in the way of security staff and attract a lot of attention when things go wrong. 

As a concerned parent, take a few moments to ask some basic questions about the school’s security program and verify that everything reasonable is being done to keep children safe in school.  Just by taking an interest and following up with the school will send the message that safety is important and helps ensure that the best steps will be taken.

  1. Who’s in charge?
The first item is to find out who is responsible for security.  Is it listed as a duty in their job description?  It is a good bet that if no one is responsible for security, then security is just an afterthought at the school.

  1. Access control –
               How many doors are left unlocked during the school day and who locks them up afterwards?  Are all the open doors in a location where they can be supervised by staff?  How are visitors identified?

  1. Background screening –
               All employees working around kids should be screened during the hiring phase.  Does the screening process look for criminal convictions around the country or just locally?  What is the policy on individuals with criminal histories – at what point are they considered non-hirable?  Is there any screening on long-term employees after they have been hired, such as an annual criminal record check?

  1. Crime tracking –
               Is there a record of criminal events or suspicious activity that occurs on the property?  How about periodic tracking of data to see if crime is increasing or decreasing around campus?

  1. Security risk assessment –
               Every year, a security risk assessment should be completed to identify high risks and that information should in turn be the focus of efforts to fix the gaps.  Does the assessment include a review of policies and procedures, crime reports, local crime, as well as building security including lighting and landscape?

  1. Security drills –
               When was the last security drill?  Were areas for improvement identified and what steps were taken to make those improvements?  Along the same lines, what kind of security awareness training has been provided to faculty?  Has staff been trained to identify suspicious behavior?

  1. Video surveillance –
               Video surveillance can be a great tool for evidence gathering after an incident, as well as a chance to detect and deter suspicious problems.  Does staff know how to use the existing video surveillance system to search for events, as well as download images or video for law enforcement?  Is the software updated routinely and how often are the cameras cleaned or serviced?

  1. Threat assessment team –
               Does the school have a team to assess any risky events or threats?  A mix of staff and local law enforcement should be part of the team to evaluate threats or violent behavior and develop an action plan on how to respond.

  1. Tracking of custody issues –
               This applies to parents with sole or shared custody following a separation.  How does the school track and enforce who is allowed to pick up kids from class?  What steps are taken to prevent parental kidnapping?  Are copies of restraining orders kept on file along with any court-issued custody papers?

  1. Special events –
               How is security maintained when off campus?  Field trips or even on-campus events may require additional security measures.  What steps are considered and how is protection maintained?

               As a parent, one of the best things that you can do to help keep your children safe at school is to ask these questions and show an interest, and let administration know that security is an important consideration.


Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email eric@businesskarate.com.


  1. This is a great list Eric. The only thing I'd add is a meeting with the "school resource officer," the police officer or sheriff's deputy assigned to the school, if it has one.

  2. Excellent suggestion. Local law enforcement is a great way for parents to learn about potential problems and officers may be more open about the types of crime on campus. Of course, I've encountered a large number of schools that don't have a dedicated SRO (School Resource Officer), such as private or middle schools. Stil the local police dept. is a great way for a parent to gauge the risks.