Tuesday, March 13, 2007

School Building Security vs. Health Benefits

The Rochester Board of Education received a report from an administration committee that explored district safety considerations.

The Oakland Press reported on it here:

Oakland Press: Group offers school safety suggestions (3/13/07)

After months of study, a 22-member school district committee has developed five recommendations to improve safety and security in school buildings.

On Monday, the committee presented the following measures to the Board of Education:

  1. Implement a set of 10 security protocols addressing use of identification badges, restricting building access, reporting of suspicious individuals and preparing for emergency situations.
  2. Establish a safety tip line for students.
  3. Install electronic card swipe entry systems in all school buildings.
  4. Gradually install video surveillance systems at all district buildings, with those facing greatest risks being equipped first.
  5. Explore initiatives that help all staff and students feel comfortable in their school community.
District Superintent Dave Pruneau said districtwide support for vigilance is critical to all recommendations. “It takes all of us to be on the lookout and to be proactive,” he said.

The committee’s first, second and fifth recommendations are expected to have relatively low costs for the district. The card swipe security systems would cost roughly $250,000, however, and the video surveillance system is expected to cost far more. Implementation of all five recommendations could rise to $1.5 million.

Trustee Mike Reno said that despite the cost, the district should move forward prudently, but quickly, to implement the recommendations. He suggested using part of the district’s $30 million in budget reserves to do so. “It would seem to me that this is something everyone sees as a priority,” Reno said.

But some school officials said these costs could conflict with academic initiatives the district hopes to implement. “The question is always, ‘How much do you want to put into security and take out of the classroom?’ ” Pruneau said.

Other board members supported low-cost measures, including those in the fifth recommendation. “These kinds of initiatives not only prevent violence … but encourage kids to get more involved in their school community,” said Trustee Tim Greimel.

District administrators plan to bring proposals to implement committee recommendations to the board in the coming weeks and months.

What a strange coincidence that this report was filed nearly one year to the week after the community agonized over threats of "Columbine-style" violence at one of it's high schools. At the height of the scare the school saw a 60% absentee rate. How quickly we seem to forget.

I think Mr. Pruneau and the committee came up with some great suggestions. My only concern is over the timetable.

I will admit I was very surprised at some of the arguements on this, such as the one cited in the article. There is no choice here between safety and academics. Nothing is being cut in order to fund security measures. Rochester has a fund balance of $30 million; is someone suggesting $30 million is needed next year for a strategic plan?

Basically, if it's worth doing, then let's do it. They only reason to wait on implentation would be if the district didn't have the money and needed to save for it over time. Again, the district has $30 million in the bank, and history suggests that it's likely to add even more to the fund again this year.

The other thing I seriously doubt is the $1.5 million dollar figure to implement all of the recommendations. That would suggest the cost exceeds $50,000 per building for video surveillance, and I just don't buy it.

Most districts around the county -- and around the state -- have video surveillance. Those district administrators are glad they have it, and I'm sure that law enforcement officials find it valuable too.

Here is an example of how it doesn't necessarily prevent a crime, but can provide valuable clues that can lead to solving them. A man had been entering buildings and stealing from employees. Lapeer had video cameras (shown in this article), and suddenly the police had something to go on. Fortunately it was just money he was after.

I also believe it is important to have it on the buses.

If video surveillance can serve as a deterrent to violance at school, or spare the community the heartache and disruption it endured last year, or stop vandalism of district property, or help solve crimes, then it deserves serious consideration.

Personally, I believe the board is hoping to keep as much of the $30 million in the bank as they can in order to fund the ever-increasing cost of health care benefits in the future.

==> Mike.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I will print this out and use it in my class when we talk about logical fallacies. Thank you for providing this splendid example.

Quite a spin: our schools would be safer if only teachers didn't have good insurance.

I don't whether to laugh or cry.

Seriously, you can do better than stooping that low. I've seen you do better than that so I know you're capable of it.