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:
- Move polling out of the schools;
- Make election days a staff-only day and/or other designated day where no students are present; or
- 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?