A look at how two districts use security tech to protect their schools.
According to the U.S. Department of
Justice, 85 percent of public schools
recorded at least one incident of crime
during the 2007–2008 school year that
had taken place at school, amounting
to an estimated two million crimes.,
We don’t like to think or talk about it,
but school security has become a top
priority for school leaders.
The good news is that installing a
video surveillance system has gotten
easier in the last few years. Today,
most security camera systems use IP
cameras, which can be either wired
or wireless over a computer network.
Unlike older analog closed-circuit
television systems, IP cameras can be
installed by the user and reconfigured
as needed. They also let users
broadcast footage over the Internet,
making it easy to monitor.
But cameras are just a start.
To help create a safe, secure
environment and protect
against everything from fights
and bullying to trespassing
and theft, schools are installing
video surveillance cameras,
physical access controls, and paging
and radio systems.
All Systems Go
When IT director Matt
Frederickson left the private
sector to work at Council Rock
(PA) School District in 2003, the
IT infrastructure was so poor
that, he says, “If the network was up for
three days a week, the teachers were
thrilled.” So Frederickson called Cisco
and installed a state-of-the-art network,
knowing that a solid backbone was the
first step to bringing the district up to date.
At the time, the high schools had
limited video surveillance and dooraccess
control deployments, but
every camera and door controller
required their own power lines,
which cost $250 to $300 to install.
Additionally, each system had to be
managed locally, and video was stored
on VCRs at each school.
The IT department, key administrators,
and safety officers developed a
plan. Their goals were for the control
systems to be cost effective and easy
to use and manage. “We had already
invested in a solid IP network, so that
became the platform for video surveillance
and physical access controls,”
Today, the district has deployed 42
cameras in its two high schools, including
wireless Cisco Video Surveillance 2500
series IP Cameras and wired cameras
from Sony. The central IT office monitors
all of the cameras through Cisco’s video
surveillance manager software; school
resource officers, principals, and the
dean can look at any camera’s video
using a Web browser.
Campus resource officers can
move the cameras to any location
without advance planning.
Because the video surveillance
solution operates over the IP network,
Council Rock can grant access to
the system to people in any location.
The district and the local police
a memorandum of
understanding, giving police
permission to view video
from cameras outside one
of the high school buildings.
Council Rock plans to
continue adding video surveillance
cameras and door access controllers,
and to further increase the return on
investment from its IP network by using
it to reduce energy costs.
A Solid Security Plan
Five years ago, around the time John Hunkiar became
chief of safety, security, and emergency management
for Leon County (FL) Schools, there was an attempted
abduction at one of the district’s elementary schools.
Needless to say, that event led to a full-scale evaluation
of security procedures. The district, which is one of the
state’s largest, had dozens of campuses and virtually no
comprehensive video surveillance system.
“We wanted to prevent stuff from happening and have
the ability to follow up on anything that may have occurred,”
says Hunkiar. His plan was to install an easy-to-maintain
video surveillance solution on all 48 campus perimeters and
administration buildings. Hunkiar looked for a company that
focused on software without forcing him to purchase a lot of
expensive hardware. He also wanted to incorporate access
control to some of the administrative facilities. Video Insight
was the right fit.
Today, there are more than 1,500 cameras on campus.
Leon County selected an analog system consisting of rack
mount 2950 Dell servers and 32 cameras per school. The
cameras monitor and record building exteriors and parking
lots to deter unauthorized access and visitors, vandalism,
and other illegal activities. “We focused on user-friendly,
low-maintenance products rather than high-end cameras,
then mapped out each campus with administrators and law
enforcement,” says Hunkiar.
The district also uses Video Insight’s card access
control system to secure confidential information in a few
Hunkiar says that one of the best features is that
authorized personnel can watch the cameras from the stateof-
the-art district monitoring/emergency operations center
or remotely, whichever is most convenient. “We monitor our
own alarms and cameras and can pull up cameras and look
at what’s happening,” he says. The center monitors real-time
weather alerts and contacts schools about possible holds
and emergencies, monitors school buses and maintenance
vehicles via GPS, and is responsible for emergency messaging.
The center also serves as Leon County’s backup emergency
operations center, further legitimizing the technology and
planning that went into building it. “It’s a round-the-clock,
single point of access,” says Hunkiar.
Over the years, Hunkiar has dealt with missing children
during the school day, shootings in the area, bomb threats,
weather-related emergencies, and natural disasters. “Pre-
Columbine and pre-9/11, school safety was a different
animal. In the last 15 years, everything’s changed. You can’t
just walk into a teacher’s classroom and drop off lunch.”