PASS-The Orlando Times
Organization ‘Guides’ Schools To Safety
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Photo Cutline: Mark Williams, the vice chair of the PASS Steering Committee, giving a presentation on school security in December.
The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has released the fourth edition of its Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools, which provides school administrators, school boards and public safety and security professionals with guidelines for implementing a layered and tiered approach to securing and enhancing the safety of school environments.
The fourth edition of the guidelines cover best practices on a district-wide level that relate to safety and security and additional areas such as school transportation, cyber security and network infrastructure, architectural features and emergency communications.
“The safety and security challenges schools face today are more multifaceted and complex than ever before, and protecting students and staff requires a comprehensive approach to these challenges,” said Guy Grace, the chairman of the PASS Steering Committee.
First established in 2014, PASS was born out of concern and commitment for school safety. Led by the National Systems Contractors Association and the Security Industry Association, a partnership was formed in an effort to help ensure that when a school system makes an investment in security, money is spent on the right solutions. Their goal was to be a resource for school districts around the nation.
In 2015, PASS first released the Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools (the “Guidelines”), comprehensive information available on best practices specifically for securing school facilities available.
The PASS Guidelines aim to answer two key questions – “What should we do?” and “How do we prioritize?” – and include: Specific actions that can effectively raise the baseline of security, Vetted security practices specific to K-12 environments, Assessment of current security measures against nationwide best practices, and more.
The guidelines describe approaches within five physical layers for school facilities: district-wide, the property perimeter, the parking lot perimeter, the building perimeter and the classroom/interior perimeter. Within each layer, the resource outlines key safety and security components, such as policies and procedures, people (roles and training), , communication, surveillance and more.
“We believe this approach provides a simplified way for administrators to effectively evaluate their security infrastructure, prioritize investment and maximize security in ways that are consistent with longstanding security practices and ensure a baseline of facility security measures appropriate for school facilities,” said Mark Williams, PASS vice chairman.
In August PASS presented in Florida to the commission about access controlled door locks, radio communications, and other technologies that are helpful for mitigating through safety scenarios such as an active shooter event.
“I’m hearing that [Florida’s] doing a tremendous amount of work that will probably be an example for the rest of the country,” said Grace, who has personally experienced a school shooting. “It’s sad because it’s often tragedy that spurs this ward. But I think it’s going to be a tremendous benefit to everybody down there in enhancing all the schools, not just Stoneman Douglas.”
The non-profit is led by a multidisciplinary team of volunteers that serve on the PASS Steering Committee, representing partners from the public and private sectors.
Safe and Sound Schools, a partner organization of PASS,—founded by PASS steering committee member Michele Gay—recently released its 40-page 2018 report on the State of School Safety.
“A proactive school safety plan should include a dedicated multidisciplinary team comprised of teachers, administrators, staff, local law enforcement, mental health workers, and a social worker,” said Gay, in the report. “In addition, the presence of a School Resource Officer and mental health experts provide strong defenses against school safety risks.”
According to the safety report, there were three topics that needed attention, closing the communication gap, giving students a seat at the School Safety table- Only half of the students surveyed actually felt safe when they are at school-, and broadening school’s threat assessment and team of experts.
While active shooters weigh heavily on the minds of many, the threats facing schools today are broader and more frequent. The study mentioned prioritizing bullying, severe weather, and racially- or minority- focused vandalism.
“Everyone should be involved in the school safety conversation,” said Frank DeAngelis, the retired Principal of Columbine High School, in the report. “Not only can we help each other address risks, we can work together to find solutions that will work best for our individual communities.”
A difference in safety perceptions among schools with fewer than 500 students, was found by the study as well. Educators at small schools - those with fewer than 500 students - report that students feel safe at school at a higher rate than their peers at larger schools. Additionally, educators at smaller schools, on the whole, feel more secure.
While always a topic, PASS plans on putting even more focus toward the mental health aspects of school safety in the upcoming year.
For more information on PASS visit passk12.org. The latest guidelines are available at no cost on the website, and PASS encourages education professionals, public safety personnel and security solutions providers to take advantage of these free resources.