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Les Potter is currently the director of the American International School West in Cairo, Egypt. Les has over 40 years in educational leadership in the US and Egypt and most recently has been a...
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The Case for School Security Officers

As school safety is paramount on everyone’s mind, especially after what happened in Florida last week, making schools safer with additional and better security is always needed. I have read statistics that there is a campus shooting once a week in America. When I was a principal, we were able to hire school security officers. These men and women were trained (but not deputized) by our district and did not carry weapons. They did wear uniforms so they were easily recognizable by the school community. They were very knowledgeable about defusing situations and being alert for problems.

Their certification came in six categories: 1) training and implementation of school security; 2) violence prevention; 3) emergencies and disasters; 4) students and staff protection; 5) understanding of the physical plant; and 6) community involvement. We had four security officers for about 1,400 middle school students. They had walkie-talkies and had a regular walking and golf cart area to patrol.

Set standards and procedures on safety and security issues. Review them regularly. Get teachers, students, parents and safety officials involved. Our school security officers were invaluable with this.

Our school safety officers met regularly during the school week to discuss problems or areas that needed improvement. They were the experts that worked with law enforcement and our administrators to give us valuable insight on potential problems. The campus security were very visible to our students and staff member before and after school, during lunch and in between classes. They also stopped visitors before they entered the campus and escorted visitors to the correct offices. Although security cameras are useful, they are reactive to a situation, but our security folks were our eyes and ears and could be proactive and hopefully stop a problem before it escalated.

We also had a police officer on campus with an office—five days a week all day. The officer worked very well with our administrators and our campus security team. We always had our police officer drive their car and park it where it was visible to any visitors. Years ago, many parents complained or were concerned when they saw a police officer or security on campus. Now they are concerned if they do not see the police or security on campus.

As a school leader you must remember that establishing a good climate and safety procedures in schools is a work in progress and needs to be constantly reviewed and updated. What worked ten years ago unfortunately may not be relevant today.  Adults and students might get upset with the strict procedures that you enforce at school, but they will be more upset if there is an issue at the school and it was not handled properly.

Be smart...Be safe... and use your security officers!


Les Potter, Ed. D.

American International School West
Cairo, Egypt