Education administrators have many tools available to them as they strive to establish a safe climate for learning, but no one strategy or piece of equipment is a magic solution that keeps potential trouble beyond the campus boundaries.

Creating and maintaining a safe and secure school environment requires a balance of many strategies: campuses and facilities that are designed to maximize the safety of students, staff and visitors; police officers or other security personnel that can deter crime and violence, as well as build bonds with students and staff to establish an atmosphere of safety; equipment that can help administrators monitor campus activity and student behavior; programs that help create a better environment for learning and prevent violence or inappropriate behavior; and crisis plans that give administrators a clear roadmap of what to do when an emergency occurs.

Every education institution should have a well-thought-out crisis response plan (see sidebar at right) that is reviewed and updated regularly. But, with other security strategies in place to deter and prevent trouble, a school or university may be able to defuse potential problems before they lead to tragedy.

Designed to protect

One of the most effective ways to provide a secure campus is to design it that way. Design choices can affect the degree to which a campus or a building enhances or detracts from security. This approach is known as crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED).

“Applying CPTED techniques can help your school be a safer place,” says the San Diego County Office of Education.

CPTED encompasses four strategies: natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, natural access control and maintenance.

Natural surveillance involves the placement of physical features and activities in a way that maximizes visibility. Examples include unobstructed doors and windows, appropriate levels of nighttime lighting and low shrubbery to eliminate hiding places. Territorial reinforcement, through landscape plantings, signage or fences, helps define property lines and distinguishes private and public spaces.

Natural access control uses streets, sidewalks, building entrances and landscaping to clearly indicate public routes and discourage access to private areas. Maintenance helps ensure that a space is used for its intended purpose, and sends a message that students and staff care about their school and take pride in its appearance.