The ideal door and window configuration for schools, jokes security consultant Peter Blauvelt, is "one door, no windows."
That setup might resolve many security issues and alleviate administrators' worries, but it wouldn't be a very inviting setting for educating children. So when schools look at the kinds of windows and doors they install in their buildings, they have to balance security requirements with factors such as cost, aesthetics, building and fire codes, accessibility regulations, and how windows and doors affect the overall learning environment.
Since most security threats will enter a school building through a door or a window, administrators must make sure the equipment they have in their facilities deters problems effectively.
"Years ago, it used to be vandalism and kids breaking in that you would be concerned about with doors and windows," says Blauvelt, president of the National Alliance for Safe Schools in Slanesville, W. Va. "Now, you also have to protect the building from some of the people already inside."
As Blauvelt observed above, one way to eliminate security risks related to windows is to eliminate them. In the 1960s, many schools were built with limited numbers of windows to enhance security and reduce energy loss.
But more recently, educators and architects have adopted the belief, backed by some research, that regular exposure to daylight improves student performance as well as the overall climate of the school. So, newly built schools are likely to have plenty of windows.
Windows need to be sturdy enough to withstand attempts at vandalism and break-in. Some schools have used plastic instead of glass for windows, or laminated window glazing to improve security.
Window glazing that was designed to provide more energy efficiency may also have a side benefit of improving security. A window film installed over glass allows a window to absorb greater impacts, not only from vandals, but also from storms or earthquakes.
Even when some kind of impact breaks a window coated with glazing, the film often prevents the window from shattering into more dangerous shards of glass.
Buildings that require even more window security can install grates or screens over their windows to deter break-ins.