New Jersey School Boards Association issues new report finding school safety has improved, but districts want to do more

The New Jersey School Boards Association’s School Security Task Force has released its final report of best practices in school safety and climate, “What Makes Schools Safe?”  

The report is based on the results of a survey issued to New Jersey school board presidents and school business administrators; 273 responded. In their report, the task force makes 45 recommendations about security personnel, school climate, policy and planning, communications, school security training, physical security, and financing security improvements.

New Jersey school safety has improved, and districts want to do more

Survey results revealed that while New Jersey school districts have already made improvements to their overall school security post-Sandy Hook, most would like to make additional improvements.

Target hardening

High on responding school districts’ wish-lists of additional security improvements are improvements that focus on “target hardening,” or safeguarding school buildings from outside threats through physical alterations and security equipment.

New Jersey school districts’ wish-list of security improvements

  • Surveillance cameras (27.1 percent)
  • School resource officer/security personnel (26.6 percent)
  • Access/alert system upgrades (16.1 percent)
  • Vestibule alterations (15.1 percent)
  • Bullet-proof windows/doors (9.0 percent )
  • Classroom door locks (6.1 percent)

Costs of physical improvements

However, as the report points out, financing such improvements frequently stands in the way of districts implementing them.

  • Bulletproof glass—$300 per square foot
  • Classroom door locks—$350 per door
  • Lockable hallway partitions— $1,000 to $2,500 each
  • Door contacts/entry buzzers—$2,000 per door, plus the cost of software
  • Proximity card readers—$750 per door
  • Redesigning the entryway—$50,000 to $100,000.
  • ID badges—$1,000 or less.
  • Handheld metal detectors—$250 to $1,000 per unit
  • Stationary metal detector—$4,000 to $35,000
  • Surveillance cameras—$2,500 per unit and $150,000 to $250,000 for a complete system

School climate improvement

The report also emphasizes the importance of school climate in any effort to improve school security, noting that in most school shootings, “the perpetrators were students and, typically, their actions extended from their experience in school.” The report suggests that providing mental health services and counseling to at-risk students can help build the kind of healthy school climates that lead to improved school safety.

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