Fix One Thing — School Physical and Electronic Security

by James C. Sherlock

I offer an apolitical suggestion. We know how to begin to fix school security.

Do it.

Step 1. Every school division has a security instruction. How many of them monitor whether that guidance is being followed? I will let them answer that.

Step 2. The more complete solution is deployment of integrated combinations of physical and electronic security systems. System integrators who specialize in school security can help with requirements definition for any facility and tailor expandable solutions to budgets. That is their business and they are good at it.

As an example of what is possible, see ADT’s integrated intrusion security and fire detection and alarm system offerings for K-12 schools.

When people say “do something”, this is the kind of solution on which all of us can agree. Do it.

We see varying implementations of integrated security systems in residential, commercial and government buildings everywhere. It is time to bring them to every school.

K-12 security solutions can include some or all of integrated access control, intrusion alerts, intelligent video, asset management and perimeter detection solutions that can be integrated with fire solutions. Systems range in price widely depending upon both features selected and levels of support chosen from stand-alone to hosted or actively managed systems.

Long-range integrated plans can be developed by each division in coordination with security vendors that as necessary start basic and expand as budgets permit.

Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) Division of Real Estate and Facilities Management (DRFM) is already responsible for security in state buildings. DGS can establish multiple award indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) PreK-12 security vendor contracts accessible to all school divisions.

It will prove a game-changing advantage over 132 school divisions each attempting to do this on its own.

How to pay for step 2? Federal option. It helps greatly that most school divisions are having a very hard time figuring out how to spend massive influxes of federal COVID funds under the current terms and conditions.

I recommend the Youngkin administration ask the federal government for approval for school divisions to spend COVID funds on security measures. Will the federal government reject the request? We won’t know until the question is asked.

It would prove a tough “no” for the federal government executive and, if necessary, legislative branches. They, too, are under pressure to “do something” about school security.

How to pay for step 2? State and local option. Otherwise, fund it with state and local funds using existing ability-to-pay calculations. Divisions can start with basic systems and add features over time as funding permits.

Spare us the comment that the current budget negotiations are complete. They are spending an unprecedented gusher of state funds. And they all know it.

House Appropriations Chairman Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach), Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) and Sen. George L. Barker (D-Fairfax) reportedly have assumed control of budget negotiations.

I recommend they and the governor consider school security as an emergency.

One of a higher priority than, say, lab schools and the Washington Commanders’ stadium.

Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax), a budget conferee, was quoted as saying “You can’t go wrong with this much money.” So don’t.

Call the General Assembly back into special session if necessary.

And then what?  There are other steps that will be necessary, but this one should not be controversial and thus executable in the near term.

Back to the first step. Meanwhile, school divisions must enforce the school safety regulations they already have in place. That must not wait.