Research Hub > Key Strategies to Improve School Safety and Security in K-12
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Key Strategies to Improve School Safety and Security in K-12

Discover essential technology best practices to bolster the safety and security of your school community.

The increase in active shooter incidents across the nation has fueled efforts by IT leaders, school safety directors, facility managers, administrators, other stakeholders and legislators to fortify security measures in schools to help save lives. With schools facing this increase in gun violence, it’s more important than ever to mitigate risks and prepare for potential emergencies.

This means adopting a comprehensive approach to improving safety and security in schools, which includes people, systems and policies.

Key Strategies for the 4 Pillars of School Safety

Discover key technology strategies you can implement across all four pillars of school safety, including physical security, cybersecurity, prevention and social and emotional learning (SEL) to enhance the safety and security of your school community and promote a positive school climate.

  1. Physical Security

    Updating access control is a top concern among K-12 school districts around the nation. Some schools are using disparate security systems that were independently purchased. Some have outdated non-IP systems for video surveillance and are operating with old cabling that doesn’t support the bandwidth needed for updated surveillance technology. And some lack the funding to purchase updated equipment and lock-down mechanisms, which makes it more challenging to keep pace with the demands of implementing modernized school security systems.

    However, by engaging with a trusted IT partner, your school can remain resilient and ready to deal with any crisis that might arise. Third parties can help school districts identify any weaknesses or inefficiencies in the network through proper assessments and determine the best technology that meets their unique needs.

    These assessments provide recommendations for improving network efficiency with the bandwidth needed to run your different security systems and applications. A trusted partner can help school districts achieve an ideal future state and align the right technology to help them achieve their goals.

    A reliable IT partner can also provide cloud solutions for surveillance systems, so security directors and admins can gain more visibility and control of what’s happening around their school grounds through one pane of glass. This can reduce the burden on IT staff because they no longer have to worry about platform maintenance tasks, such as software upgrades or patching. With all the cameras connected in one place, IT teams know exactly which device requires their attention when a technical issue arises. Updated physical security systems also allow for improved communication with law enforcement.

    In addition, schools should start looking into updating environmental sensors with vape/THC detection and mapping mechanisms that can serve as a deterrent against harm.

  2. Cybersecurity

    Cyberthreats, range from cyberbullying incidents to malicious individuals infiltrating school systems with the intent of accessing private information. Unfortunately, many leaders find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the escalating number of cybersecurity attacks. Moreover, the complexity and cost associated with implementing cybersecurity standards and obtaining support only adds to the predicament.

    One way your school can enhance its cybersecurity measures is through a cybersecurity rubric or framework that takes into account the specific needs of education. CDW along with a third-party evaluator conduct an assessment to measure your school’s cybersecurity readiness. Then, your school can share the report with your leadership and/or school board and use it to build better cybersecurity.         

    This framework provides a set of standards that creates a clear picture of what cybersecurity measures schools need to implement, allowing school district officials to certify their own evaluators and evaluate school districts around them. CDW’s program also follows up with schools after a year to measure their cybersecurity readiness and offers ways to improve their strategies, enabling them to keep pace with ever-evolving cyber threats.

    To obtain cybersecurity insurance, schools must show proof of cybersecurity readiness, but many school districts are unable to show they meet all the insurance requirements. Not all schools have a dedicated CIO, for example. However, by measuring cybersecurity readiness through the rubric, they’re able to attain comprehensive coverage, lessening the load for CIOs to recertify their insurance every year.

  3. Prevention

    A trusted IT partner like CDW can provide guidance and direct school districts to implement prevention best practices.

    For example, CDW can help identify concerning behaviors that require mental health professionals.

    Communication and strong relationships with law enforcement are also crucial for effective threat assessment. Collaborating with technology companies on preventative measures is also vital for creating a safe climate and culture. Sharing information and collaborating on drills with law enforcement and educational institutions can ultimately save lives.

    Another aspect of prevention is through the facilitation of seamless communication using incident command centers, enhancing response times. This is particularly relevant in active shooter or lockdown/shelter-in-place situations, where the influx of texts and phone calls can overwhelm the cellular network, leading to a complete shutdown. In such cases, a mobile command center serves a crucial role by not only establishing an incident command and reunification site, but also providing communication capabilities beyond what the existing systems can offer. For instance, Verizon offers a solution that goes above and beyond regular communication services. Additionally, incident command systems can encompass networking, cellular technology and radio communication setup.

  4. Social-Emotional Learning

    Social-emotional learning skills help students thrive in the classroom and throughout their lives so they can be productive adults. Technology tools like artificial intelligence (AI) may provide intervention opportunities to help students in areas that need improvement. By incorporating SEL lessons and activities using generative AI, teachers can develop prompts to assist with mindfulness strategies, conflict resolution, cooperative learning and more to help students improve their relationships with their peers and themselves.

    Identifying negative behaviors, poor grade performance and adverse interactions with teachers and classmates before they get out of control can serve as an early detection strategy for educators. And, it allows educators to provide highly personalized learning experiences for struggling students, which will help them improve their emotional well-being and empower them to be productive members of society.

How CDW Can Help You Enhance School Safety and Security

If you’re looking for a holistic approach to securing your schools, including strategic technology practices that improve your resiliency to physical and cyber threats, we can help. Our more than 35 years of experience have made us a trusted IT partner to more than 15,000 K-12 schools nationwide. Our dedicated team of CDW Education consultants, strategists and ambassadors can work with your district or school to help you develop the right school safety solution that fits your school’s unique budget and requirements. We’re here to help you build a security-first landscape, offer advice and support you every step of the way.

Build your proactive strategy for school safety and security.

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Bryan Krause

CDW Expert
Bryan Krause is a K-12 education strategist for CDW Education. He has held roles such as area assistant superintendent, executive director of student services, director of security and emergency management, and CTE director. Krause was principal of a school that suffered a school shooting and has shared his experience with multiple school districts and organizations nationally for over 17 years.

Michael Beeson

Michael Beesonirector, Education Impact and Initiatives
Michael Beeson is the Director, Education Impact and Initiatives.

Michael Swartz

District Sales Manager for K-12
Michael Swartz is the District Sales Manager for K-12.