Universities, K-12 Schools Announce Security Upgrades for 2023-24 School Year

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Colleges, universities and K-12 schools  of various sizes are sharing new safety and security improvements made since the start of the new school year.

After a student was robbed at gunpoint outside a residence hall and another student was seriously injured in an off-campus shooting, Ohio State University outlined last week the new safety measures being implemented both on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods, reports ABC 6.

A news release from the school, which has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 46,000, said it would be expanding its crime interdiction program by working with the Columbus Police Department (CPD) to increase evening and overnight off-campus patrols.

The school said the decision will provide “additional visibility throughout the University District” and that patrols will be adjusted based on neighborhood needs and real-time trends.

The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD) is also hiring five additional police officers, two of whom will support ongoing CPD and OSUPD joint patrols in the University District.

The campus also announced it is purchasing additional mobile surveillance cameras and renewing its Buckeye Block Watch which features non-police security teams who are taught how to deal with difficult situations and learn mental health response, first aid and CPR.

The school’s Campus Area Bus Service (CABS) On-Demand, which provides free transportation between campus buildings after 9 p.m., will also add two more stops.

In Philadelphia, Temple University, which has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 24,000, announced it would upgrade its emergency notification system, TUalerts, to incorporate color-coded headlines in its email alerts to show the severity of a situation, according to Temple Now.

The improvement was first proposed by the parent-led group Temple University Safety Advocates (TUSA) to Temple’s Department of Public Safety (DPS).

“Parents asked for it, and we delivered,” said Jennifer Griffin, Temple’s Vice President for Public Safety. “The new color-coded emails will quickly alert students, faculty, staff, and parents whether or not there is an immediate threat and the severity of it.”

TUalerts sent by email will feature one of three colors: red to denote an emergency incident, yellow to denote updates or informational events, and green to denote an incident is over and police have cleared the area.

The colors will only appear in the headlines of email alerts since text messaging does not have the option to incorporate color.

TUSA co-chair Joan Begliomini said that “additional context would allow students to take appropriate precautions without inciting panic.”

“We are pleased that university administrators, after considering feedback from students and families, acted on our concerns about campus safety and the alert system,” said Fadia Halma, TUSA’s other co-chair. “The university’s new color-coded safety notification system will enhance students’ ability to respond appropriately to emergencies both on and around campus.”

DPS also plans to improve communication by increasing the frequency of which TUalerts are disseminated during certain ongoing emergencies. DPS reportedly made the decision based on communication efforts examined at other universities. Following the Aug. 28 murder of a UNC-Chapel Hill professor, students criticized the school’s response, claiming it provided sporadic and undetailed information during the three-hour lockdown.

“Keeping the community informed is critical to transparency and the safety of our community,” said Joshua Nussbaum, DPS’ deputy director of emergency management. “In an emergency situation, having continuous TUalerts would do just that—keep students informed and improve awareness. These changes will make our Temple community more aware.”

Safety and Security Updates at K-12 Schools

Significant upgrades have been made by K-12 schools as well. First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, Ga., announced it partnered with Centegix, an incident response solutions provider, to provide a badge to all employees to wear with a panic button they can push if they are dealing with a student-related emergency, reports WMAZ.

“We just simply want every kid to feel safe in their seat,” said Head of School John Patterson. “It just became more heightened when the incident in Nashville happened. I think that was a turning point for a lot of schools and asking ourselves what else can we do?”

The school also installed a new door barricade system for all classrooms, offices, and common spaces, where teachers and staff members need a key fob to access the hallways, and a new campus security officer has been hired to patrol the campus. Patterson said the goal is for all of these tools to work together and emphasized keeping schools safe means the entire community has to be involved.

“It’s bigger than just the Centegix Program, it’s about identifying threats. It’s about what our parents do as parents at home, it’s how we treat each other,” he said. “It’s just not a badge, it’s just not a resource officer. It starts with this idea about prevention and taking care of one another.”

In Bryan, Texas, Allen Academy received a $500,000 donation from the Adam Family Foundation to complete security-related projects, according to KBTX. School officials said most of the projects are meant to improve communication and threat detection. Earlier this year, the foundation made similar contributions to both Bryan and College Station Independent School Districts.

“The day-to-day experience of the teachers and staff will be most influenced by the gift, and that gives the teachers and staff the tools to keep the kids safe,” said Head of School Seraphim Danckaert.

Last week, Olympia (Wash.) School District board members decided to bring back school resources officers (SROs) after Capital High School experienced two gun scares in four days. The district has been without SROs since 2020.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy said the Olympia Police Department (OPD) is working to have police officers on campus in the next few weeks before the SRO program gets up to speed.

Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said the SROs go through 40 hours of additional training covering case law and search and seizure on K-12 campuses.

The original version of this post appeared on SSI’s sister publication, Campus Safety.

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