Election day school safety, security, and crisis preparedness

Posted by on November 25, 2012

Election day school security is an issue principals, superintendents, and school board members around the country have grappled with in one form or another for more than a decade. We have seen administrators give more attention to the issue post-Columbine and post-9/11, not specifically because of Columbine and 9/11 threats per se, but as a result of good security analysis and good common sense.

As one principal put it best: “Why do we spend time, energy, and money to improve access control to our buildings every school day only to let anyone and everyone in the building on election days when we have no idea who these people are when they enter the school?” His point makes good sense in terms of consistency with a district’s security philosophy and program.

Most schools we have worked with have faced three options for addressing school security on election days:

  1. Move polling out of the schools;
  2. Make election days a staff-only day and/or other designated day where no students are present; or
  3. Operate school with students present under enhanced supervision and security.

The Allen County School Safety Commission (Ft. Wayne, Indiana) successfully worked with election officials years ago to remove polling from most schools in the county. I have seen other schools do the same, although these school-communities still seem to be in the minority of the three response options.

Many schools have exercised option “2” with staff-only professional days on days elections are held at their school. This option is a happy medium when local politics and logistics will not lead to completely removing polling from schools.

We still have many schools operating a “normal” school day but with beefed-up supervision and security. For those schools, we have provided some common-sense, cost-effective steps to improving school security, safety, and crisis preparedness on election days.

Strengthening school security on days when elections are held at a school makes good security sense and common sense.  It is certainly better than continuing on, do nothing, and assuming nothing could happen even though school leaders are opening a public facility to a large number of unknown adults (many with no regular business or connection at the school) and not taking any steps to reduce risks.

Do your school leaders strengthen school safety, security, and emergency /crisis preparedness on election days?

Ken Trump

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One thought on “Election day school safety, security, and crisis preparedness

  1. John Henderson CPP says:

    Mixing the general population with our children in a school setting is not a good idea. It defeats the sense of security that we send the children to school with, knowing that they will be supervised by teachers and kept inside a controlled environment. That disappears once you start introducing unscreened members of the public for an unrelated purpose. As most adults have the right to vote, you will be allowing criminals who may wish to victimize children an opportunity to get inside their controlled environment. I am of the firm belief that schools must have strong access control policies and hardware that allows authorities inside the school the ability to only let authorized people inside.

    Although school buildings may be convenient, election activity should be done elsewhere. We no longer live in small communities where everyone knows everyone else. People in the modern era can travel vast distances within hours, which means you just don’t who may be getting inside your school, and if it’s open, seeing your children. Sounds a bit paranoid, but there is no reason why we should be helping criminals get access to children that they normally wouldn’t get by letting them vote in a school.

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