School Security: Visitor Program
Schools are very busy, active places. In order to protect the occupants of schools, security measures need to be established and enforced. In addition to students, staff and faculty members, schools regularly have visitors such as parents, outside specialists and vendors.
It is important that these visitors are screened, documented and monitored while inside the school buildings or on the school grounds. Without the implementation of a comprehensive visitor program, a variety of serious security incidents such as kidnapping, sexual assault, arson and murder can occur. A visitor program should include the following elements:
Develop a document that outlines the district's position on authorized and unauthorized visitors. Address staff responsibilities and provide a step-by-step guide for when staff sees an unauthorized visitor on school grounds. Implement the program throughout the district and conduct annual refresher training prior to the beginning of each school year.
Clearly display visible and easy-to-read signs that describe the district's visitor procedures on all exterior doors. These signs should also direct visitors to the proper entrance location for that particular building.
Visitor Sign-in Documents
Require all visitors to sign in and confirm identity with a photo ID. Validate the reason for the visit (parent picking up a sick child, vendor meeting with the maintenance manager, etc.) and issue a reusable, numbered and easily identifiable badge. An automated visitor management system may be used that provides a photo ID sticker badge. The visitor must wear the badge at all times while on school property and return it upon leaving.
An Exchange Program
Requiring visitors to leave collateral such as car keys or a driver's license in exchange for the badge can help ensure that visitors return to the office to sign out and return their visitor badges.
If staff members see an individual without a visitor badge, they should approach the visitor and follow the steps outlined in the district's visitor policy. During this interaction, staff members should inquire about the visitor's business on school grounds, provide assistance and directions, and inform the visitor of the school's visitor program and requirements. Visitors who have not signed in should be escorted to the administrative office to sign in and receive a badge.
If a staff member is uncomfortable approaching an unknown individual, they should notify the building administration immediately and observe the individual from a distance until assistance arrives.
Undocumented individuals should be reported to the administrative office immediately if the visitor:
- Does not follow visitor guidelines as requested by staff
- Is visibly upset or displaying erratic behavior
- Is acting violently or displaying a weapon
Reporting procedures must be communicated to all faculty and staff as part of their annual training. Extra steps should be taken in these situations:
If visitor is uncooperative:
- Disengage from the individual as soon as possible
- Immediately contact the administrative office to report the individual's name (if known), physical description, location and last known movement direction
If visitor is violent or armed:
- Disengage from individual as soon as safely possible
- Communicate a lockdown announcement immediately thereafter
- Perform a lockdown
- If possible, contact the administrative office to report the individual's name (if known), physical description, location, last known movement direction and if the individual is armed
- Remain in lockdown until released by administration or law enforcement
All emergency announcements must be communicated to staff and faculty using easily understood language. No coded messages should be used. If appropriate, the announcements should provide detailed instructions on what duties the staff are expected to perform.
For example, "There is an emergency situation in the gymnasium. Go immediately into lockdown." An emergency message should be repeated at least twice initially and periodically throughout the incident until safety clearance has been issued. All faculty, staff and students should receive training, and practice drills should be conducted to make sure everyone knows how to respond to common emergency announcements.
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Disclaimer: This material is designed and intended for general information purposes only, and is not intended, nor shall be construed or relied upon, as specific legal advice.
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