School Safety Solution and SB 127
What the passing of SB 127 means for schools
Q&A with Ron Couch, President and CEO of CIH
We sat down with CIH CEO Ron Couch, whose organization has implemented school safety and security solutions in 200+ school districts for over 50 years, to discuss why he personally got involved in SB127 and what the bill means to schools now that it has passed. Throughout his 32 year career, Ron has participated in several advisory boards within the door hardware and security industries. CIH is a proud partner of the safest school in America.
Why are you passionate about school security and safety?
Throughout my 30+ years in the security and safety industry, I’ve had the privilege of consulting with school districts, architects and life safety experts on security and policy related issues. We have seen the needs shift with the increase of security incidents and threats. This topic is personal to me, as the intermediate school that my son had attended (and where my wife had worked) was the target of an active shooter incident.
Are safety and security synonymous?
Though safety and security are often used interchangeably and can overlap, they are not the same. Safety involves codes and practices that utilize Life Safety (NFPA 101) and Fire Safety (NFPA 80) which are part of the Model Building Codes. These standards specify how the building should help occupants exit safely (Life Safety) and protect them from fire emergencies (Fire Safety). Security is primarily intended to control who gets where and when. A properly designed security system should never compromise Life and Fire Safety guidelines.
What is SB 127 and why did you get involved?
Indiana Senate Bill 127 (SB 127) is a referendum which will allow schools to seek a property tax referendum specifically to fund school safety and expand how schools can use Secured School Safety Grants from the state. This bill was authored by Senators Travis Holdman, Jim Merritt and Jim Tomes and was approved by the Indiana House Committee on Ways and Means. I was able to get involved by presenting to the Indiana Committee on House Ways and Means hearing on the bill. As a concerned citizen and subject matter expert, I was able to provide a testimony that was beneficial to the committee in support of the bill.
As a concerned citizen and subject matter expert, I was able to provide a testimony that was beneficial to the committee in support of the bill.
What does it mean for schools now that the bill has passed?
Senate Bill 127 allows a school corporation to adopt a resolution to place a referendum on the ballot to impose a school safety referendum tax levy to improve school safety and security. This funding is outside of the schools operating budget and is earmarked for school safety and security programs which could include school hardening (strengthening the building’s defense against attack), access control/security products, school safety officers and other safety/security items. This bill also expands the use of a matching grant dollars from the Indiana Secured School Grant (ISSG).
What are some actions and preparations schools can take now to make their schools safe, secure and convenient?
A great starting point is to research best practices for school safety and security, such as PASS (Partner Alliance for Safer Schools). PASS offers comprehensive information on best practices specifically developed for securing school facilities and has been vetted extensively by experts across the education, public safety, and industry sectors. Once a guideline is shared and reviewed by the necessary parties within the school district, a district-specific plan can be constructed and policies implemented. Budgets can then be created based on the specific needs on a site-by-site basis.
What are common misconceptions about school safety that you want people to be aware of?
The most common misconception is that installing expensive products or technology is the most effective response to school security. It is understandable that given the pressure to “do something,” parents and the public may expect to see visible technology, like camera systems, to help with security. Products and technology certainly have a place, but the best place to start is with a well-documented plan that includes input from the required staff at the school district along with safety and security professionals. Policy, readiness, and communication are key elements of safe school design and operation.
It is important to know that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. However, simple solutions (such as making sure all teachers know that their classroom doors should be closed and locked between periods and to block the door windows when an intruder alert is sounded) can go a long way in keeping students safe. According to the Final Report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, “The testimony and other evidence presented to the Commission reveals that there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door. A holistic approach must be taken for classroom security including training, drills, key distribution and impact-resistance of glazing adjacent to the hardware, and there is no reason to sacrifice life safety in favor of security.”
Why are you against the use of barricade devices and want others to be also?
Simply put, barricade devices, though well-intentioned, do not meet Life and Fire Safety codes. In addition, they will cause unintended consequences that are often not considered, in both “normal” and active shooter situations. For example, barricade devices can be used in bullying situations (which are prevalent in schools) and can keep administrators from gaining access and stopping the attack. Also, in active shooter situation, the devices can impede first responders from providing aid or prevent emergency exiting of the school. It is clear that school systems pressured by parents for a quick fix solution could make poor choices if not properly advised and counseled. As a community, we want our schools to make knowledgeable choices – not based upon emotion but rather best practices and proven products and procedures.
As a community, we want our schools to make knowledgeable choices – not based upon emotion but rather best practices and proven products and procedures.
Any final tips you want to give to people reading this?
Reach out to sources that can help guide your school district to the solution that works for your unique needs and requirements. Seek the help of public safety official (local police and fire marshals) and other safety and security experts. Talk with school districts that have implemented solutions to understand what has worked and what they wish they would have done differently. Review industry best practices. CIH has been fortunate to work with several schools to help keep their students and teachers safe, and we are happy to be a part of your solution.
For more on school safety read the previous article by clicking here
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Stay tuned for the next installment!
Safety, Security, and Convenience in Higher Education
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