Parochial School Retrofits Need a Sensible Security Solution

In the 21st Century parochial schools have an increasing need for heightened attention to security. Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and other minority religious groups know the sting of prejudice–and that this sting isn’t always limited to just unkind words. In 2013, 60% of religious hate crimes were anti-Jewish, and over the past half-decade an increasing portion of hate crimes have targeted American Muslims. As ideological tensions climb around the world, parents and administrators are concerned about the safety of their religiously affiliated schools. Parochial schools and institutions are already targets of vandalism, bomb threats, arson, theft, and other crimes motivated by hate, necessitating more vigilance than other schools.

But in a report released in 2013, the National Association of School Psychiatrists found that intrusive school security measures–such as metal detectors–tended to decrease students’ sense of safety, rather than reinforcing it. While safety must be a priority for parochial school administrators, it’s important to ensure security without making the school feel like it is in perpetual lock-down. The combination of modern bullet resistant barriers and smart design makes it possible to affordably maximize actual security while preserving students’ sense of safety.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a design philosophy that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and has gained increased traction with school administrators and designers over the last decade. CPTED primarily provides unobtrusive deterrence through:

  • natural surveillance: windows and sight lines make it clear to visitors that they are highly visible
  • natural access control: a single point of entry welcomes guests while making potential attackers feel confined
  • natural territorial reinforcement: landscaping clearly communicates the building’s presence and role in the community

Total Security Solutions has long advocated for this sort of comprehensive security, particularly in the areas of natural surveillance and natural access control. Security design specialists at Total Security Solutions can help administrators make informed decisions about what bullet-resistant products are suitable for specific uses, and how these can be deployed to enhance security without straining the educational environment.

Bulletproof Recommendations for Parochial Schools

Higher Education Bulletproof BarrierTotal Security Solutions usually recommends that public schools create their single point of entry by converting an existing glass-wall vestibule into a secured bullet resistant vestibule entryway controlled by the front office. Since many parochial schools are in historic or re-purposed buildings, this may not be the simplest approach. Total Security Solutions can reinforce existing walls and doors with bulletproof panels, or create customized laminated-wood bullet resistant doors to match what is already in place. Ornate glasswork can be backstopped with ballistically rated acrylic or glass-clad polycarbonate. The forced-entry resistance inherent in backstopping has the added benefit of shielding the building from vandalism and other property crime. These are the same sorts of “invisible” security enhancements that are used in the White House and other historic public buildings.

While some administrators might be attracted to low-cost, easy-to-install after-market security films to reinforce existing windows, these products are not independently tested, do not have a UL rating, and can vary a great deal in quality. While security films can reduce flying glass (also called “spall”) during a storm, accident, explosion, or shooting incident, Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards points out, “We just don’t hear about significant injuries caused by spall from bulletproof acrylic.”

Cost is always a concern with schools. The federal government–and an increasing number of state governments–offer grants to support structural security improvements to schools and religiously affiliated buildings using proven design practices and materials. The security design specialists at Total Security Solutions are sensitive to the unique challenges faced by parochial schools administrators, and are eager to help them find sensible, attractive, modern security solutions.

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