By: Ian J. Smith
Breaches in security at public schools- as major as the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting and as minor as the “break-in” last school year at my school- have schools attempting to increase security. How they are going about it, unfortunately, does not make much sense.
Our local paper can sum up the story of what transpired last October. The problem with these statements is what Safety, Discipline and Athletics Coordinator Ted Lombard said referring to the trespassers’ entrance, “…and entered through the front doors around 10:50 a.m. Note that the other exterior doors are kept locked during the school day.” The subject of our school doors has unsettled me all year. A series of doors enter into the commons area, which I have to assume are left open all day due to the arrival of students through it all day. The front doors are located in the lobby to the auditorium, whose doors are usually kept unlocked and provide entrance to the rest of the school. Neither entrance is within view of the front office or attendance office, so it would be easy to enter the building without being spotted. A series of other doors- one exit to the bus loop, gym doors, the art room doors, and science hall exit- are left open or unlocked most days. To be fair, they likely don’t know about all of these doors, but most students know the ways to discretely enter school. Practically anyone could enter the school without being spotted.
My school system’s response to this? Entry control systems on the front door, which have been in place at the elementary school level since Sandy Hook. This works over there because there are few people coming in and out during the day. With many juniors and seniors dual enrolling, students pass through high schools all day. The only way to know that teenagers are actually students of this school would be to require student to present IDs. This would significantly inconvenience students and attendance officials. In all likelihood, the person controlling access would eventually begin to allow any teenager in.
In a survey of Georgia Journalism Academy students, there is no clear trend towards entrance control systems improving safety. One student with an entry controls system reported “there are a lot of slip-ups that happen at my school so I could see there being a security breach”. Another reported multiple break-ins and trespassing incidents. Results of students with security systems averaged a rating of 92.5% on how safe they feel at school. Students without entrance controls system averaged 89% safety, with only one student without an entrance controls system reporting break-ins.
So would an entrance controls system improve security at my high school? It is likely that it would deter trespassers from using the front door, but not from gaining access through one of many other entrances. The money spent on installing them would be wasted.