Safe and Secure

10/30/2013 6:00:00 PM

Security in schools is a subject no one likes to talk about, but in today’s climate, it’s one we unfortunately need to address. District leaders need to reassure parents and caregivers that their children are safe on school buses and on campus. More and more, schools are updating sign-in procedures, installing security cameras throughout the campus and on buses, and using technology to track students online. Here are some of their stories.

Everett (WA) Public Schools
18,800 students
2,000 teachers/support staff
26 schools, 3 support centers, 1 environmental learning center, 1 maintenance facility, and 1 transportation facility

What company do you use for security?


Why do you use this company?

“We use Sonitrol because they are results-oriented,” says MaryHelen Pierce, director of maintenance and operations. “Their system works and it is highly recommended by the police department. When the alarms are activated, Sonitrol can hear what is going on. They know when to call the police and they have a high percentage of success for capture.”

How long did it take you to get surveillance up and running?

“We have had Sonitrol for many years. W hen we have new projects, they are part of the schedule. W e had one project where we needed to install security immediately and they had it done within days. They meet and/or exceed our expectations.”

How has security changed the way your school district operates?

Pierce says, “We take security seriously, so we partner closely together with city and county police personnel for the safety and security of our students, staff, and buildings.”

Where do you see security going in the next few years?

Right now, the district has security cameras at the high schools but the cameras are older and don’t produce great quality video. Pierce says her IT director is planning a district-wide camera installation for 2014. They are also testing alert buttons.

Any advice for districts that are getting started?

“I’ve been in facilities for a long time. Districts should definitely look into Sonitrol because of its audio product [vs. alarm]. Audio is appreciated by the police,” says Pierce.

Blanco (TX) ISD
996 students
85 teachers
4 instructional buildings, 1 administrative building

What company do you use for security?

“We purchased cameras from D-Link and use e-Watch software,” says Tom Cozzi, director of technology.”;

Why do you use this company?

“The people at D-Link are so accommodating; they help us get whatever we need,” says Cozzi. “They immediately address any issues. For instance, they had to upgrade my switches to get the cameras to work, and that was included in the price. As a result, they upgraded my entire network and I got double bang for the buck.”

How long did it take you to get surveillance up and running?

The cameras were in and working in less than two months. “The only thing we had to do was be licensed to install the security camera, and not everyone was licensed,” Cozzi says.

How has security changed the way your school district operates?

Cozzi says it hasn’t changed the way the district operates, but it has aided the district in various ways. “We let the public know the cameras are in place for security as well as for vandalism, which has dropped off. When we first put them in, people had mixed feelings. But I always referred to the cameras as security cameras, installed for the safety of students, staff, and district property.”

Where do you see security going in the next few years?

“After Sandy Hook, we ended up doing a lot of things, such as locking down doors, installing security cameras and panic buttons. It was a kind of knee-jerk reaction. In the future, I think we’ll see more of a shift into training faculty and administrators to be more sensitive to student needs. It will be more about educating people to be more aware of their surroundings.”

Any advice for districts that are getting started?

“Walk your campuses to decide where to put those cameras. Walk and walk and look and see where it would be most advantageous. It’s expensive, so you want to spend time at different parts of the day to decide where to place cameras. D-Link walked with me. We spent about four days walking around to find the right places.”

Denton (TX) Independent School District
26,500 students
2,100 teachers
42 instructional buildings

What company do you use for security?

“We use Cisco for all security, including desktop security, Internet filtering, and firewalls,” says Ernie Stripling, technology information officer. Along with security cameras, the district uses IPICS—The IP Interoperability and Communication System (

Why do you use this company?

“We have a good relationship with our local Cisco sales team, and having access to ask questions is an invaluable resource. I’ve used Cisco for 20 years and realize the value of the Cisco partnership.” Denton ISD has more than 800 cameras, and Stripling says having video surveillance is invaluable. He’s looking forward to the next version of IPICS, which will provide mobile access for authorized users into the camera system.

How long did it take you to get surveillance up and running?

Not surprisingly, installing 800 cameras took a long time. But Stripling says that if you put in some time up front and organize everything correctly, it makes for a smoother operation.

How has security changed the way your school district operates?

“We used to use VHS tapes that were held at each location,” says Stripling. “It was a laborious process to get the tapes into the proper format for courts, and often the tapes were discredited because so many people had to touch them. Now, a principal, assistant principal, or security officer can take a screen shot off the Cisco system and email it to a principal or parent. It’s instantaneous, which is what is expected and needed today.”

Where do you see security going in the next few years?

“We’d like to see all our schools secured, meaning that all employees will use badges to access one door. That way, we can marry a video to any person walking in that door. I’d like to have students enter with badges as well so that parents can log in and watch their children at school.”

Any advice for districts that are getting started?

“Having the cameras helps; it pays for itself in the first year. It’s a huge investment, but things do happen outside, in parking lots, etc. With cameras on a playground—especially at elementary schools—you can zoom in to get the license plate number across the street. Kids will be kids; we’ve caught them stealing things out of a classroom. Just like having security at home, it gives you a feeling of satisfaction and lets you sleep better.”

What’s Now/What’s Next?

The Eyes Have It: EyeLock (, an irisbased identity management solution firm, is working with Stanley Security Solutions to put its iris biometrics toward new uses, such as tracking children getting on and off school buses.

On-the-Spot Verification: AO ptix (www.AO, a company that leverages optics to develop innovative identity verification products, recently unveiled AO ptix Stratus, a hardware/software solution that turns a regular iPhone 4 or 4S into a mobile iris, face and fingerprint device.

Who’s on the Bus? BlinkSpot ( uses iris-recognition technology to instantly identify students as they get on and off school buses. This helps schools reduce liability with real-time reports of exactly who gets on which bus at what time.

Instant Alert: Carroll (TX) ISD is using eTrak’s Emergency Response System ( If an emergency occurs, teachers can notify authorities by pressing the silent eTrak Alert Button. Once pressed, the device sends a discreet message to predetermined authorities.

Security Companies

AVerMedia IP cameras and software

Canon PTZ Network Cameras

Panasonic 360 Series Surveillance

Samsung HD network cameras; IP cameras

SwipeK12 Swipe Basic; Swipe Premium

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