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What is a "School Safety Assessment"?
Most security consultants presenting themselves as "school safety experts" approach school security assessments with a heavy lean on high-cost physical security recommendations. If a potential school security consultant tells you about their "checklist" or "template" for conducting an assessment, you can bet it will include a lot of items associated with security equipment, physical plant upgrades, and related costly measures.
School boards and superintendents may pay less up-front by hiring such consultants. But in the long run these school leaders end up stuck with recommendations calling for thousands (and often hundreds of thousands) of dollars in recommendations for new equipment, facility upgrades, etc. In the end, their consultant report misses the mark on the people, procedure, climate and political aspects of school safety while leaving school leaders to explain why they then cannot implement the consultants' recommendations.
Physical security is one component, but not the bulk of a professional school safety assessment. Our teams approach school safety / security assessments as a "management consultation." We provide school boards, superintendents, and school administrators with recommendations from experienced preK-12 experts who understand the "big picture" policy, procedure, people, and school-community relations implications of what we recommend.
Our professional school security / school safety assessments provide educators an independent assessment by school security professionals of existing positive safety measures in place and recommendations for building upon those measures with school safety improvements at the building and district levels. School leaders use our security assessments as a:
- risk management tool for reducing crime and violence threats, risks, and potential liability
- school-community relations tool to demonstrate a district's commitment to school security prior to a crisis.
School safety assessments are district-specific to address your unique concerns and needs, not pre-packaged comments and forms with a few name changes. School ecurity assessments are designed to help educators be proactive, not reactive, with school safety.
And at National School Safety and Security Services, we believe that it is important for school security assessments to reflect both the positive school safety measures already in place at the time of the evaluation, as well as the areas for continued school safety planning and improvement. Our final assessment reports are designed to be used as a strategic planning tool --- not as an attack on a school's credibility and management abilities. ?
Progressive school administrators assess school safety prior to a crisis. They know that school safety can no longer be viewed as a grant-funded luxury that can only be addressed proactively if one-time grant funds exist. Time and time again, lessons have taught us that school safety is a "pay now or pay later" situation, with it being better to invest proactively up-front versus having significant recovery costs, lawsuit losses, and long-term damage to your school-community relations if you wait until after a crisis occurs.
School safety assessment final safety assessment report
Findings and recommendations are submitted in a final written report to school officials. School security assessment reports reflect both the positive school safety measures already in place at the time of the evaluation, as well as the areas for continued school safety planning and improvement. The final assessment report can be used as:
- An independent source of professional information to be used in formulating realistic activities, and measurable goals and objectives for these activities, for short-term security improvements and long-term strategic plans for enhancing school safety. Our security assessments provide detailed recommendations. Some of these recommendations can be done immediately and others will require a longer time to plan and implement. The final security assessment report can be used to deal with both short-term improvements and as a strategic plan for improvements during upcoming school months and over multiple upcoming years.
- A part of an overall program evaluation to periodically measure progress and make revisions in established school security plans and programs.
- A concrete public relations tool for demonstrating the schools' commitment to have a thorough, external, and professionally completed assessment of the school's security and emergency preparedness components of their overall prevention, intervention, and school safety program.
- Evidence of having conducted a professional needs assessment that can be used in meeting federal and state grant proposal requirements to receive grant funding for safe safety and emergency planning.
Should we expect school safety assessment recommendations to focus on school security hardware and manpower?
As school security professionals, we recognize the unique needs of elementary and secondary schools, along with their differences from other environments when applying security concepts. We understand that educators wish to take a balanced, rational approach to improving security without adopting a knee-jerk, siege-like mentality. In conducting an assessment, we approach the process with the idea that security needs and strategies often vary community to community, district to district, and even school to school within a district.
While factors identified in our assessments for some districts may result in recommendations for security equipment and/or staffing, we believe that even then, these tools are a supplement to, but not a substitute for, an overall comprehensive security program. A predisposition toward equipment or any other single-approach is unfair, and potentially unnecessarily costly, to schools.
A camera, for example, could cost you unnecessary expenses - or it could save your school thousands of dollars. An assessment of your unique security needs would help you manage your limited resources effectively.
What is evaluated in school safety assessment / school security assessments?
Areas reviewed in a professional school security assessment by National School Safety and Security Services can include:
- School emergency and crisis preparedness planning
- Security crime and violence prevention policies and procedures
- Physical security measures including access control, communications capabilities, intrusion detection systems, perimeter security, after hours security, physical design, and many related areas
- Professional development training needs related to school safety and emergency planning
- Examination of support service roles in school safety, security, and emergency planning including facilities operations, food services, transportation services, pupil services, physical and mental health services, technology services, and associated school departments
- School security and school police staffing, operational practices, and related services
- Linking of security with prevention and intervention services
- Personnel and internal security
- School-community collaboration, school and public safety agency partnerships, and school-community relations issues on school safety
...And much more!!!
What methods are used in National School Safety and Security Services' school safety and school security assessments?
We do not believe that a 10-minute "walk-through" of a school can solely identify the security needs and appropriate practices needed to improve school security. We also do not believe in "paralysis by analysis," i.e., an exaggerated, lengthy study for the sake of studying something (often for the sake of creating additional costly consultant hours and bills). Our school-specific security experience has allowed us to create a structured, specialized assessment process which includes, but is not necessarily limited to:
- Analysis of policies, procedures, emergency and crisis guidelines, and other safety-related documents
- Surveys and structured interviews of staff, students, and/or members of the school community
- Crime and discipline data review
- Examination of physical facilities and grounds
- Analysis of related news, crime, and other public information sources
- School-specific analytical methods
To save you time and money, we provide a pre-assessment checklist to help us identify specific information for analysis off-site, as well as to focus our on-site assessment, so that your district does not pay for unnecessary travel and on-site expenses. As consultants who have first-hand experience working in school districts, we also display a great deal of flexibility and concern not to disrupt the educational process while working on-site in schools with our clients.
The number of evaluators can range from one two-person consultant team to multiple teams of evaluators depending upon the size of the school district and nature of the assessment as cooperatively arranged in advance with the client district. Lead assessment evaluators/consultants have over 20 years each of full-time experience in the school safety field and every project is led by our president, Ken Trump. On-site school security assessments may also be linked with our school security and crisis preparedness training programs.
What do school safety assessments cost and what funding is available for school security assessment services?
Costs for assessments are based on the number of sites to be evaluated, on-site time, pre-assessment material review and completion of final report time, and travel time. Quotes are given based on this information and will reflect consulting fees, plus all expenses (travel, lodging, meals, etc.).
Visit our funding resource page for grant information, resources, and other tips on funding school security services and programs. However, school leaders can no longer look upon school safety as a grant-funded "luxury" that can only be addressed proactively if funded through grant money. Time and time again, lessons have taught us that school safety is a "pay now or pay later" situation, with it being better to pay a reasonable amount proactively up-front versus having significant recovery costs, lawsuit losses, and long-term damage to your school-community relations if you wait until after a crisis occurs. School security assessments help you to be proactive, not reactive.
Have other educational leaders found your school security assessments to be helpful?
Our assessments have consistently received top grades. We have extensive written reference letters from school boards, superintendents, and administrators. Also see our client feedback page.
For additional information, see Ken Trump's article on school security assessments from the May/June 1999 issue of The High School Magazine published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.