Editorial: Rochester school district wisely invests in security

Published 10:58 am Thursday, February 28, 2013

Most schools weren’t built with security in mind. They were designed to foster learning and social experiences that prepare our children for the real world.

That’s why today, visitors to Rochester’s elementary and middle schools enter an unlocked main door, are directed to the front office to sign in and are given a visitor’s badge. It’s a protocol that’s inconvenient and bureaucratic, but it’s a security system that for years was deemed to be entirely adequate.

But in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults — what many are calling the 9/11 of school shootings — that’s no longer true. Anyone who has visited one of Rochester’s public schools recently realizes the potential, however unlikely, for such a tragedy is just as real in Rochester as it was in Newtown.

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That’s why we’re reassured by the Rochester School Board’s decision to upgrade the security at all 16 elementary and four middle schools. School officials have designated $210,000 to install camera and intercom systems so all entry doors can be locked during the day.

The new security system will bar visitors from entering until an employee unlocks a door by releasing a latch. Before entering, visitors must speak to an employee by an intercom. A camera would allow the employee to see the visitor on a monitor, while another security camera provides a wide-angle view around the entry area.

It’s not an infallible system — it’s actually quite similar to the system that didn’t stop the Newtown shooter from shooting his way in — but it bolsters the security of the schools’ perimeters. Since the Newtown shootings, experts have cited three rings of school security: the perimeter of the campus, the perimeter of the building and the central core of the school. While all three rings are important, security analysts say the building perimeter is most important.

Upgraded security, coupled with involvement of the schools’ police liaison officers, should do much to assuage the anxiety parents have felt since the Newtown shootings. The projected $210,000 — $123,000 for equipment and $87,000 for installation — is a small price to pay to improve the safety of our children.

While the series of locked doors and ever-present security cameras might seem to be a repressive learning environment for our children, it’s preparing them for the real world. Their parents, whether they visit a school building or go through security at an airport, are already used to it.

— Post-Bulletin of Rochester, Feb. 23


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