School Access & Visitor Control

National School Safety and Security Services receives many inquiries from parents and school officials about school access control. Issues to consider are listed below.

An Expectation of Safety

Access control to school campuses and buildings is a top concern for most school officials. School administrators struggle with maintaining a balance between having a user-friendly, welcoming school climate and a facility which is secure from unwanted intruders. While even the best school access control efforts will likely not guarantee that a determined outsider will not be able to gain access to the school, educators must take reasonable steps to reduce the risks of unauthorized access.

Reducing and Controlling School Access

Some practical steps for improving school access control include:

  • Establish one main entrance and put up signage identifying it as the main entrance. Maintain visible signage on campus and on all school doors directing visitors to the main entrance door. Some schools also post notices advising that individuals who do not follow visitation procedures may be charged with trespassing.
  • Create a visitor sign-in, sign-out, and escort procedure.
  • Reduce the number of doors which may be opened from the outside. This does not mean chaining doors or creating a fire hazard. It does mean using doors that cannot be opened from the outside, but which from which those inside can exit in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • Reconfigure main entrance design so that there is a secondary set of secure doors and all traffic is funneled into the main office before they can gain access into the school. To heightened the security further, make the initial exterior door buzzer controlled with a camera and intercom, thereby requiring visitors to be buzzed in the first door, funneled through a second door (which could also be buzzer controlled, if appropriate), and only then provided access into the main building.
  • Consider use of a camera, intercom, and buzzer at the school main entrance, especially at elementary schools. Be sure to have the controls for these doors at the desk of each secretary, rather than only at that of one person, if you have main office secretaries controlling the doors. Train the secretaries on proper procedures for allowing access.
  • Secure custodial entrances and delivery doors during and after school hours. Have custodial personnel keep a log of deliveries to include the name of the vendor company, name of the delivery person, license plate of vehicle, date and time of arrival and departure, and associated information.
  • Require all school doors to be closed and secured from the outside while cleaning personnel and after-hours staff work inside the building during evening and night hours.
  • Train all school staff, including support personnel, to greet and challenge strangers. Staff should be trained to at least report strangers to the office if they do not feel safe in approaching someone they believe to be an intruder.
  • Train students not to open doors to strangers, other students, or even adults they may know.
  • Educate parents about access control strategies and the importance of them following the rules.
  • Establish a routine maintenance and timely repair program for the doors.
  • Consider the use of proximity cards for school staff with card readers at most commonly used doors such as teachers’ parking lot entrances, main entrance, doors used for recess/playground activities, doors used for physical education class activities, etc.
  • Use magnetic locks on doors so they close more easily.
  • Many schools, especially high schools and other larger facilities, use surveillance cameras to monitor and record entrance points. While most schools do not have adequate funding to staff full time monitoring of surveillance cameras, these cameras can serve as a deterrent and should be used so as to at least provide a record of who was in the area.

Questions or training requests may be directed to Ken Trump.