In fall 2013, the Littleton Public Schools District (Colorado), with great support from the community, passed an $80 million bond election for capital improvements within the school district. Immediately following the bond election, the Littleton Public Schools Security Department personnel began planning to implement their portion of the bond funds, which was about $7.5 million. Its security team’s journey toward security technology and infrastructure is a good example for other school systems.
On 13 December 2013, Littleton Public Schools suffered a fatal shooting at Arapahoe High School. The attack lasted only 80 seconds, but left one student fatally injured and the assailant dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. Although many of the events that happened that day proved that the security systems and procedures in place at Arapahoe High School helped minimize loss of life and injuries, there were also lessons learned that would motivate the district to seek solutions moving forward.
Determining Security Needs
In the months following the Arapahoe incident, it was critical for Littleton Public Schools to analyze its district’s security posture, not only to meet the challenges of an active shooter incident but also to meet the challenges of all hazards that the school district potentially faces on any given day. During the ISC West show in April 2014, Scott Lord, the director of innovation and national accounts for All Systems and a member of a group called PASS (Partner Alliance Safer Schools), introduced Littleton Public Schools to PASS and shared his knowledge about the challenges faced when implementing security systems in K-12 schools.
In summer 2014, security installations began on a few schools. Not only was the staff at Littleton Public Schools still reeling from the aftermath of the school shooting but, after the first projects were completed, the results did not quite meet the expectations of the security team. The earlier discussion with Scott Lord about PASS then spurred research on the PASS recommendations. Using the PASS recommendations, the team’s response, oversight, and expectations for the ongoing installations were organized to begin in summer 2015. The recommendations that the PASS standards brought to the process were helpful, with a stark difference between 2014 and 2015.
The PASS recommendations not only helped to justify the funding and deployments that were being done, but also inspired thoughts on how to deploy the technology for multiple uses such as utilizing mass notification and integrating PASS into a security system. As a result, the installations in 2016 and 2017 not only met and exceeded all expectations but were also on budget and on time. The PASS recommendations also helped the Littleton Public School District win an Industry Security Innovation Award in 2016.
Installing New Security Measures
A school’s budget is one of the most important items for a school district, and the security team was very careful when installing the new security infrastructure. The district was able to install Power over Ethernet (PoE) cabling for current and future installations, as well as many district-wide solutions: new access control system; new video management system; video/voice intercom system for access control; asset protection system; and intercom and mass notification system. The district also provided tablets for mobile response and a new security command center to oversee and monitor the new technology. By using the PASS recommendations, the Littleton Public School Security team was able to install all of the technology and infrastructure. Keeping in mind that all the buildings in the district are 40 to 80 years old, by utilizing the PASS recommendations, the pricing (i.e., equipment and installation cost) per school is shown in Table 1.
One of the biggest benefits Littleton Public Schools have experienced by following the PASS standards is that its security systems can evolve to meet the all hazards needs of the school district now and in the future. By utilizing the PoE infrastructure, the district is never stagnant and can deploy new technologies to address its security needs. PoE cabling is often the most costly part of today’s security systems. In regard to PoE cabling for schools, it may be feasible to explore the universal service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-rate,” as a way to introduce the security of the PoE infrastructure to the nation’s schools, where physical security and learning can (and should) coexist. E-rate provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. The program ensures that schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.
The Littleton Public School District has found that the PASS recommendations are very valuable to empowering the school community to be ready for day-to-day needs as well as emergencies when they arise. The district on any school day has over 200 employees who are using the security system’s various integrated systems to keep the students and staff safe. People are the most important asset in the school system, so it is important that they have the best tools available.
The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) was established by security industry leaders dedicated to providing a guideline for the proper implementation of security technology in K-12 schools. A joint effort between the Security Industry Association and National Systems Contractors Association created a committee of security manufacture, design, and integration experts to design a guideline that could be used by any school district in planning the implementation of security technology per the threats and processes of the district. Chaired by Brett St. Pierre of HID Corp and led by Jim Crumbley, owner of Risk Solutions, the committee formed PASS and created the first edition of the PASS K-12 Guidelines in spring 2014.
Guy M. Grace Jr. serves as the director of security and emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools, a suburb of Denver. He began providing district security services to Littleton Public Schools (LPS) on 1990 after serving in the military and attending college. He worked his way through the ranks in the security team when, in 1999, he was appointed to head the LPS Security Department. He is a recipient of many national and security industry awards and recognitions. He is a regular speaker at school safety trade conferences and a regular security media commentator for various trade magazines and media. He has created and assisted with developing many security related projects, protocols, and practices that are utilized today in school safety. He also serves as a director on the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools. He also is the safety advisor for the “Safety Squadron” that is a part of the nonprofit Project Peace Program, which develops classroom safety curriculum for educators and students in K-12 schools.