Why is it important to have high school security?


Molly Worley/Zane Rentfro

In today’s world, high schools in America have security in place in order to help protect the campus and students and staff inside. The risk of gun violence, intruders, and physical/verbal altercations further proves why security is essential in a school environment. However, many are still wondering why exactly schools have security. 

Roles of an SRO (security resource officer) vary from protecting the community to being involved in the social aspect of a school. Oftentimes, security officers working are always on the lookout for intruders on campus. This means that any uninvited person that does not work, nor attend the school as a student, is seen as a threat and potential danger.

The Chief of Police at Washburn Rural High School, Chief Ralston, described his job this way.

“My primary goal is to ensure the safety and security of the building, students, staff and visitors inside.” 

Much of their time is also spent patrolling the streets surrounding the school. The officers have the right to pull people over and hand out tickets to people who are in violation of driving laws. According to Chron News, school security additionally plays a major part in developing effective procedures and drills. This includes fire, lock down, and tornado drills. Apart from just protecting the community, SRO’s can also act as another form of counseling in the building.

Many students need or want someone to talk to about personal problems. A number of the students go to the officers who serve the role as just another caring adult in the school building.

In recent years, school security has changed immensely, even at WRHS.  Chief Officer Ralston said, “I have been a police officer for 18 and a SRO for 13 years, over that time I have seen different trends in school security, school violence. In the nation now it seems that there are far more acts of violence in schools than there used to be and that changes our approach.”

Many schools have added interior classroom door locks, created more detailed active shooter plans, and hired more law enforcement officers to secure schools. 95 percent of schools in the U.S. have restricted entry, such as controlling access to the building, and 98 percent of U.S. schools require school guests to sign into the school guest system, and to wear a visitor badge. 73 percent of schools have installed locks that can be locked from the inside of the classroom, and 96 percent of schools have implemented a written plan that describes what will be performed during an active shooting. Along with these changes 91 percent of schools have added security cameras to monitor the interior and the exterior of the school.

Studies have also shown that economics plays a role in school security as well. Classrooms and schools are less likely to have more security precautions if more students come from households with lower income. 69 percent of schools with three quarters of students receiving free or reduced lunches had locking classroom doors . However, 78 percent of schools had locking classroom doors with a quarter or fewer students qualified for free or reduced school lunches. 

As far as adopting emergency procedures, since 2003, 78 percent of schools have added written plans for an active shooter situation. 40 percent of schools have panic button alarms that connect to law enforcement, which shows an increase of 27 percent from 2015.

Education levels and locations of schools are determining factors in the level of security. High schools are more likely to have security cameras than elementary schools, with 94 percent of high schools and 97 percent of middle schools having security cameras but only 88 percent of elementary schools having security cameras. In 2009, only 43 percent of schools had security staff, but that increased in  2019 to 65 percent. Along with security systems, 67 percent of schools in cities had a threat assessment system compared to 71 percent of schools in the suburbs. However, only 56 percent of schools in rural communities had these same types of threat assessments. 

For Chief Ralston, the more security, both in equipment and personnel, are important for the safety of the students and staff.  Chief Ralston explained, “There’s no way of ensuring people coming in (to the building) have good intentions because anybody could walk in and there’s nobody to stop them. If there are altercations in the building and no security, who is there to stop it?” The Chief explained that the fewer security, the higher risk of intruders, which poses a threat to students, staff, and visitors inside the building and at events.