When “layers of security” becomes a spin phrase to dodge questions about gaps and limitations of school security products, hardware, and technology

Posted by on November 21, 2023

The most novice of security students understand that the concept of “layers of security” is a basic concept of professional security practices.  The basic premise in the simplest of explanations is that multiple layers of security may lower risks of full security breaches.

While a basic concept to security professionals, the concept — and more specifically the use of the phrase “layers of security” — has not historically been in the common vernacular of most school administrators.

But in the past couple of years, the phrase has appeared more in comments by school leaders when explaining their large expenditures of tax dollars for new physical security measures such as AI weapons detection systems, metal detectors, and similar purchases.

The phrase has also been increasingly used by security vendors and school administrators when they have been questioned by media, parents, and others about gaps and limitations of these physical security measures — in particular newer weapons detection systems.

When “layers of security” becomes layers of spin and deflection

In some cases, it raises questions as to whether school administrators are parroting these words provided to them by the vendors who use them to sell and justify their products and services. It also leaves some wondering if the phrase “layers of security” is being used to deflect attention away from legitimate questions about limitations and gaps of physical security measures.

Rather than admit deficiencies and tough questions about the capabilities about expensive security hardware, products, and technology, it is simply easier to say, “Well, it’s just another part of our ‘layers of security.’”

While this may be true, it is a disservice when school administrators and safety officials dodge legitimate questions about gaps and limitations of security products and tech.  This is especially true when they’ve been spending six and seven-figures of tax dollars to buy them and tout them to parents, students, and staff as advanced security measures that give stakeholders the impression of a greater claim of safer schools.

School stakeholders deserve candor and transparency about school security

School boards and administrators need to be authentic and transparent communicators about school safety and security.

Parents, students, and school staff, as well as the media, should exercise due diligence in evaluating claims by school leaders, and security vendors, about security products, hardware, and technology.  Beware when school administrators and vendors are quick to say, “Well it’s just another layer of security,” in response to challenging questions about their capabilities and limitations.

After all, when a bull deposits a layer of manure out in the field and another bull deposits another layer of manure on top of it, it is still layers of manure.

Dr. Kenneth S. Trump is President of National School Safety and Security Services  

National School Safety and Security Services

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