In light of several high profile incidents in Maine involving threats to schools, the Department is reminding districts of the many resources it has already available to support schools in their ongoing efforts to keep students safe.
Maine schools have long taken security seriously and just this fall, more than 200 school leaders attended free day-long security workshops in Hampden and Westbrook hosted by the Department in partnership with the Maine Principals’ Association and Maine School Management Association.
Additionally, the Department’s website provides extensive tools to inform local planning, including a free school security guide created for the Maine DOE by Safe Havens International entitled 20 Simple Strategies to Safer and More Effective Schools and a similar resource specific to building safety entitled Seven Important Building Design Features to Enhance School Safety and Security. These guides recognize that while all of us are committed to keeping our schools safe, there are often limited financial or human resources to devote to security enhancements. As a result, the evidence-based improvements presented within their pages are both practical and low or no cost.
Since the senseless school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago, Maine has worked at the State and local levels to strengthen the safety and security of its schools. Reports on the preparedness and facility security of Maine schools created by Safe Havens International and PDT Architects in 2013 and 2014 praised the positive climates in Maine schools and said that the shortcoming in the state’s schools are common to schools across the country. Among the opportunities for improvement offered in the reports included developing more comprehensive school emergency plans and properly conducting regular drills and trainings to support them. Additionally, access controls and visitor screening procedures were recommended for upgrades, as some of the state’s older school facilities don’t meet currently-accepted security standards like having locking room doors and duress buttons. While upgrading facilities was encouraged in the reports, both conclude it’s important to keep a focus on planning, training and staff readiness as no security technology equals the power of people to spot and react to danger. Excerpts from those reports are available here.
For more school security and safety resources from the Maine DOE and its emergency planning partners, visit www.maine.gov/doe/security.