Security Solutions are in High Demand by School Districts

By Mary Scott Nabers | 5.2.2019

Over the past two decades, schools throughout the country have beefed up campus security – so much so that the school security market has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Market research firm, IHS Markit, estimates school spending on security projects totaled $2.7 billion in 2017 and that total is expected to hover around $2.8 billion through 2021.

Although the probability of being involved in an active assailant situation is extremely low, this year marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and the more recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 mortally wounded exposes the fears of students, faculty and parents that school violence is real. In spite of the billions that have already been spent, thousands of schools remain vulnerable.


Many school districts have deployed video surveillance as the epicenter of their security efforts. Campus Safety magazine surveyed school districts and found that about 96 of survey respondents already have some sort of surveillance in place. And, 66 percent of those surveyed said they plan to purchase or upgrade their current video surveillance technology in the next three years. While surveillance is good, most experts point out that school campuses need surveillance with a combination of other safety measures.

Officials at both the federal and state levels of government have worked to secure funding for security upgrades on public school campuses. Following the Florida school shooting in 2017, more than 25 states released about $960 million for school safety initiatives.

New Jersey’s governor approved a state legislative plan to seek voter approval for up to $500 million for school safety upgrades. Texas’ governor proposed $110 million in new school safety recommendations. Most school districts are consolidating state and local funding with federal grants.

One federal grant program authorized by Congress was funded with $1 billion. The legislation allocated $75 million in school safety grants for FY 2018 and $100 million each year from 2019 through 2028.

The U.S. Department of Justice also provided $70 million in grant funding as part of the STOP School Violence Act. This funding is to be used to support school security, student and faculty training and to aid law enforcement and first responders in the event of violent incidents on campuses.

Voters nationwide have shown their willingness to contribute to school and student safety. Many local bond packages have been approved. In Texas, for example, over the last three years more than 80 percent of bond proposals that include funding for security projects have passed.

More funding is available to secure campuses through state agency safety grants. Six million dollars in new school security equipment grants was awarded late last year to address security needs for the more than 100 divisions of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. The funding will support the purchase of video monitoring systems, classroom locks, visitor ID systems, metal detectors, electronic access controls and other security upgrades in 443 schools.

In February, 95 Colorado schools shared approximately $29 million from the School Security Disbursement grant program. These funds are available for capital construction, hardware and devices or equipment that improve security of a school facility.

Hundreds of school districts are in the planning stages of school security projects:

  • In Oklahoma, the Edmond Public School district has approximately $3.7 million to use for enhanced security. Projects under consideration include electronic security and door control devices, shatter-resistant glass film on windows, video surveillance camera systems and student and staff photo ID badges and card reader systems.
  • Trustees for the Spring ISD in Texas approved a fourth safety and security package from proceeds of a successful 2016 bond referendum. Nine campuses will receive $2.6 million for safety upgrades.
  • Voters in Laurel, Montana, will vote soon on a five-year building reserve levy for security projects totaling $1.25 million. Improvements include a new entry system upgrade and keyless entry system installations. Camera and intercom systems would also be modernized.
  • Five capital security projects totaling $10.3 million are planned in the Westfield School District in New Jersey. The first phase of projects is already underway. Approximately $2.6 million is allocated to three schools for automatic lock doors for classroom and stairwells and security gates. Other projects include door replacements at all other elementary schools by summer 2020 as well as other security enhancements.
  • School officials in the Katy ISD in Texas are seeking $7 million from a successful 2017 bond package for campus safety projects. The district wants to upgrade all safety systems.
  • Morgan Hill Unified School District in Silicon Valley, California, plans to ask voters to support a bond package that includes $7 million for school security projects.

Upgrading safety on school campuses is critical and bipartisan efforts are underway to provide the funding with contracting opportunities immediately available in every state in the nation.

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released bookInside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.

Overcoming what scares us most to advance career as education administrator

The team at the International School Safety Institute travels globally to facilitate trainings for education and law enforcement professionals involved in school safety. Some aspects of our training involve hands-on tabletop exercises directed at responses to man-made or natural threats. During these trainings, we see participants exhibit phenomenal critical thinking and response skills while working through these exercises. They are not afraid to do what’s required of them in the simulated scenarios.

While we ask educators and administrators to do what’s required to protect lives, when we ask them to present to a group of people, particularly their peers, we see people freeze. Many lapse into the physical reaction of turning “red”, a clear indicator of panic or fear. Does this sound familiar?

School safety training often focuses on the high impact-low probability threats but perhaps there should be room for development on the things that really scare us. Research shows there the chances of a bad guy coming to a school with a gun is extremely low, but a lot of training focuses just on this one scenario. We also know with certainty that in order to advance your career as an Education Administrator or Superintendent you will need to speak to an audience of your peers as a subject matter expert (SME) at some point in time. This is a high probability event that directly affects your work culture and climate – and can cause deep anxiety in people who fear public speaking.

As professionals, we all understand that no matter the situation people are faced with, having lack of training and preparedness increases fear, anxiety, and sometimes panic.

The International School Safety Institute is pleased to offer its Professional Development Workshop Track at its annual Conference taking place September 30th in San Diego, CA.

John Callery, Assistant Special Agent in Charge will facilitate a full-day workshop on “Effective Public Speaking.” Throughout John’s twenty-seven years with the DEA, he has presented training programs to law enforcement, military, educators, and heads-of-state in forty-plus countries. Attendees to this workshop will benefit from John’s experience, and see an immediate improvement to their public speaking and presentation skills by the end of the day.

Safety must be addressed through a holistic approach to a problem having many moving parts. There is no single “magic bullet” that can address every aspect of safe school culture and climate. If there is any area causing fear or anxiety, it is an area that needs to be addressed through training, because it will detrimentally affect safety. Our goal is to assist safety minded individuals who aspire to advance to leadership roles in their organizations, because tomorrow’s leaders will need to effectively address problems in school safety. We know this proactive approach works, because we see the results through your efforts in school safety.

More information about John’s Effective Public Speaking workshop, and all other presentations, is at

Stay safe Gatekeepers…

Jeff Kaye

President, School Safety Operations