School Security — Arming Staff

What Are My Expectations and Options?

Alan Schmitt, ARM-P – Area Vice President, Loss Control

It seems every time you turn on the news, pick up a newspaper, or look online there is a reference to an active shooting event.  Unfortunately, school violence and shootings are not going away.  Therefore, it is extremely important that we review our current security procedures and understand some of our security options under the MUSIC program.

There are five primary areas which should be addressed:

  1. Perimeter and classroom physical security
  2. Security policies
  3. Security training and intruder drills
  4. Threat assessment
  5. Armed security personnel

Let’s review each of these topics a little closer:

Physical Security

The physical security of your campus, schools and classrooms continues to be one of the most important areas to address.  However, with this in mind, our security efforts cannot interfere with “Life Safety Code” guidelines.  We need to look closely at any security measures being considered to ensure they do not create a life safety issue or other safety concern.

Some key physical security items to consider include:

  • All perimeter doors need to be locked from the outside. This includes kitchen doors and doors used for playground access.
  • Video monitoring should be considered at all entrances, but at a minimum, it should be installed at the main entrance to the school.
  • The main entrance should have a communication system with the main office.
  • All classroom doors should have the ability to be locked. It is strongly recommended that doors which require a key to lock them be “pre-locked.”
  • First floor windows and windows in classroom doors should have shades or blinds so they can be closed during an intruder event.
  • Glass panels in classroom doors should have a clear security film placed on them so they are more impact resistant.
  • Each classroom should have two-way communication with the office.

Security Policies

It is also important that our security policies be reviewed and updated to address potential concerns.  The policies should then be communicated to staff.  Probably one of the most important policies to review is the visitor and vender policy.  Do you have a good policy which requires the visitor/vender to sign in, wear visitor lanyard and sign out?  Even a better policy is to collect some form of identification when they enter the school.

Security Training and Intruder Drills

All staff and students should be routinely trained in intruder policies and how to react to an intruder.  In addition, a minimum of two intruder drills should be completed every school year.  The training and drills should include the following:

  • Confronting any person in the building who is not wearing a “visitor” badge.
  • The importance of maintaining perimeter security.
  • Not opening perimeter doors for individuals and rather directing them to the main entrance.
  • How to properly secure classrooms and other safe areas.
  • The importance of option-based responses.
  • Scenario-based drills should be considered.  These actively require teachers and staff to make split second decisions.  All staff needs to be trained in option-based responses.

Threat Assessment

A key component in eliminating an active shooter event is to identify any potential threats before they escalate into an actual event.  This is the primary purpose and focus on the threat assessment process.  Analysis of past events has told us that many times one or more students, teachers or others were given clues that the event was going to take place.  It is important that a program be put in place so these clues can be communicated to a common person or team and evaluated and perhaps acted upon to keep the event from occurring.

Armed Security Personnel

Within the MUSIC program you have several different options for armed security personnel on the school campus.  They include the following:

  • A commissioned law enforcement officer

This is probably the best option.  This is an SRO or similar commissioned officer assigned to the school district or school event.  In this scenario, the commissioned officer is largely controlled by the local police chief or county sheriff.  The police chief or sheriff will ensure the SRO maintains their commission, weapons qualifications, physicals, and mental assessments.

  • A School Protection Officer (SPO)

In 2014, the Missouri Legislature passed SB 656.  This legislation created the position of a SPO in a school.  If your district is interested in appointing a SPO, you must follow all criteria outlined within the legislation.  This includes having the person receive all POST-required training.  In this scenario, the SPO is not commissioned by the local police chief or sheriff.  Therefore, they will not have a relationship with the juvenile system and their powers are limited.  In addition, it will be the school district’s responsibility to make sure that the SPO remain current in weapons qualification, mental assessments, and physical exams.  Currently, there is only one known organization which will provide this training.  This is the Law Enforcement Institute with the University of Missouri Extension.

  • Contracted security service

Under this scenario, the school district hires an outside security firm to provide security at the school or school event.  If you enter into this type of agreement, it is important that the contract requires that the private security company requires their security staff to maintain weapons qualifications and mental health assessments.  The district should also require a certificate of insurance from the private security firm for both liability and work comp.

  • Off-duty law enforcement

This option is when the school hires off-duty law enforcement officers to perform security duties at the school.  Under this scenario, the law enforcement officer is a contracted employee of the school district.  It is very important that your attorney provides a clear and concise job duty and employment agreement.

  • Hybrid security service

There is only one company I am aware of which provides this service (Shield Solutions).  Under this method, the school district allows staff members to become armed.  The district contracts with Shield Solutions to provide training, mental health assessments, and receive weapons qualifications for selected staff.  In addition, Shield Solutions also provides ongoing training and mental health assessments.  It is our understanding that the contract with Shield Solutions indicates that if a Shield Solutions trained person is ever is required to use their weapon as a result of an active shooter event, they immediately become a Shield Solutions employee and will be covered by the liability and work comp insurance of Shield Solutions.

If any District employee has only the State Conceal Carry Training—they are not covered by MUSIC.

MUSIC Resources

Your MUSIC loss control staff has developed several checklists and other resources to assist your school district evaluate and address your security needs.  In addition, we are available to perform onsite security evaluations of your school and campus.  Finally, we are also available to assist you with training your staff on intruder response.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 314-800-2255 or @ alan_schmitt@ajg.com