Balancing school board meeting security and school administrator safety with parental engagement and First Amendment rights

Posted by on October 7, 2021

A growing number of parents are frustrated and angry, in particular over school COVID-19 mask policies and hot topics such as discussions around “critical race theory” and school curriculum. Political dynamics from the federal level down to local school communities are exacerbating these tensions in some school communities.  What used to be routine, mundane school board meetings can now turn into contentious, loud shouting matches triggering perceived or real threats and security concerns.

School administrators must, however, balance parental engagement and First Amendment rights with reasonable safety, security, and emergency preparedness measures.  Parents being emotional does not automatically equate to being threatening, criminal, or a domestic terrorist. The most basic level of local politics and community engagement is at the school board level and parental communications about concerns with school principals and superintendents. School board members who retreat to Zoom meetings and administrators who shy away from parents may only escalate parental and community frustrations toward school leaders.

How can districts protect school boards, administrators as threats grow? An excellent article by Kara Arundel @KaraArundel on K-12 Dive addresses school board and administrator security and threats. My perspective in the article included:

Historically, district administrators have been hesitant to invest in security measures at administrative buildings because school systems often prioritize the safety of students and teachers. District officials also don’t want to be perceived as putting resources toward their own needs. Although some central offices have installed security cameras and proximity card readers in recent years, some don’t conduct regular lockdown drills or have crisis teams or evacuation plans, Trump said.

“We’ll say, ‘You need to take a look at your own building. You’re the people who hire and fire people, you hold suspension and expulsion hearings here, you have school board meetings and there are potentially contentious issues, and it’s getting more political over the years,’” he said.

There are a number of steps school leaders can take to beef up security and preparedness.  For example:

  • Create protocols for managing board meeting security that addresses physical security, meeting location design, signals for security or police intervention, etc.;
  • Develop threat assessment protocols that focus on threats made by and to adults (not just student threats); and
  • Require central office administrators and staff to have crisis teams, drills, and safety best practices as required of their schools.

For more information our school board meeting, school administrator, and school office security and emergency planning consultation and training services, click here.

For more information on our services, email Ken Trump or call him directly at 216-251-3067.

To read more on the subject, read Ken’s District Administration article on Administration Center and Board Security


Ken Trump is the President of National School Safety and Security Services

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