School Access Control - Who Is In Your School?

Author
Dennis Lewis
Date of Post
Sep 27, 2009

Who Is In Your School?

Ask any administrator what causes heartburn and you’re likely to get a variety of answers. But one of the things mentioned at some point in the conversation will be the problem of controlling access in and around the school campus. 

Most schools were built in a time when worrying about trespassers was not an issue, and many schools – particularly in rural areas – have multiple buildings; consequently, students are expected to walk between these structures as they make their way to class. While it’s not the ideal during inclement weather – or when trying to control who has access to hallways, staff and students – it is the reality, and school personnel must work within the limitations given.

One strategy that can help is the use of student and staff identification badges. Picture identification badges have been a mainstay in the business world for several years, and many school districts now recognize the value of the card and use this method to help track who belongs and who doesn’t belong in and around the school.

Only individuals who have never worked in a school environment would question whether trespassing by non students is a concern throughout the school year. And, for some principals, it is a daily problem that takes time and resources to manage. While we would never say identification badges are the panacea, the fact of the matter is, they can help. 

  1. Work within the school community to educate students, parents and staff related to the value of the badge; taking time for this important step can help reduce resistance when implementation begins. Make this a recurring topic when meeting with student focus groups. At the very least, students will appreciate the fact they were asked for an opinion. 
  2. Inform students of the reasons for the display of the badges.  Don't become so busy or dogmatic in response that student voices are not heard.  Listen carefully, and take their concerns seriously.
  3. Use the badge for a variety of purposes, and don’t try to sell the concept on the basis of safety and security alone. The more reasons students have to use the badge in their daily lives, the more likely they will be to accept the card as a viable tool. There are a number of uses for the card and the more value and convenience for students and parents, the more skepticism may be reduced. 
  4. Security aside, badges can also be used for the following: 
    • Library card
    • Debit card for lunch or other school purchases
    • Activity card for entrance into school events
    • Internet usage
    • Electronic class attendance procedures
    • Anonymous "tip line" numbers for student use
  5. Business discounts (Some local businesses will give discounts to students who can display a current picture identification badge.) 
  6. Consider the use of incentives for the proper displaying of the badge. To be eligible for the "contest" students must wear the badge each school day without having to reprint a new one for a pre-designated period of time. Having a monthly drawing for a gift certificate to the student "winners" can be a fun way to reinforce the importance of compliance. 
  7. During the initial implementation it is well advised to try not to make this a disciplinary issue. Student and staff need time to acclimate to the new requirements, and only after a reasonable period of time should students who repeatedly choose not to comply be given a disciplinary consequence. 

Implementation of any new security strategy is a balancing act, and administrators must remember that regardless of the nature of the change there will always be those in the community who believe it is too much, as well as those who believe it is too little. School personnel will have to decide whether or not the use of identification badges is a viable strategy; however, at the very least, it is an option that should be discussed and seriously considered.