By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato
When a school network is designed, various levels of access have to be created to manage content access. The easiest way to approach this is to place students, teachers, staff, and others into groups. The group is then managed. If an individual becomes untrusted, they become a non-group member, and thus cannot access anything.
Groups have an ID, this is something people never see. To get into the group, people have a personal ID, this is something people use everyday. They never consider all the places their ID (username and password) travels.
In the physical space, group IDs and access indicators are also needed. These need to be designed so they can be visually recognized by members of the community. In addition, buildings and facilities need to be designed to accommodate certain groups, but not allow others.
Group IDs in the Visual Space
I have already spoken about uniforms, but many schools do not use uniforms. Dress code is definitely a manner to identify a group students, but beyond that, there are many other ways to know who is who and what they should be doing.
Student IDs are often the same for all student, and many are the same template as staff IDs.
IDs for different groups should vary visually. This allows anyone to quickly look at the color, and make a decision about access to facilities, food options, etc. Having to stop and read, requires engagement. Engagement either requires a sense of authority, or it can make a person feel as if conflict might ensue. Colors remove the direct engagement aspect of managing people in physical spaces from those who might only want to report a problem.
No Go Zones
Libraries, Cafeterias, and other large areas should have spaces that are “student only” and “parent/guest only”. These spaces should separate students by age group when possible.
People who are managing these spaces need to manage problems over a larger landscape. They should be able to politely direct anyone to their proper area, without conflict. These areas can be labeled, and color coded. Colors could match IDs (or guest passes) to help everyone navigate.
For example, students in the middle school might have red ID cards. Middle school bulletin boards, information screens, etc., could all have a red border. Anyone noticing a student with a blue ID, would immediately realize that student is in the wrong building. Trying to sort students by size is something teachers try to do, but that practice is not very accurate when students are close in age.
Driving and Parking
Access to campus often starts with transportation. Although schools usually have buses and public transportation options planned, personal vehicles are often loosely managed, or not managed.
Schools tend to believe that issuing parking stickers to people, and then assigning them a parking lot/space, is enough. However, schools need to consider why people need to drive, and if it should be a right or a very limited privilege.
I have worked at one school that had no parking at all. It was in a city, and space was at a premium. If people needed to drive and park, they had to use public parking options. This meant that it was nearly impossible to have unscheduled visitors. Anyone coming to the school would make an appointment to ensure their paid parking was used efficiently.
As people evaluate campus safety, they need to consider that anyone looking to create a negative situation would need a staging area. There would need to be access close enough to the school to allow someone to prepare. Vehicles make excellent staging areas. The closer vehicles are to buildings and entrances, the greater the risk.
In addition, schools are full of children running around and not always paying attention. Vehicles allowed to move within spaces where children are walking can be very dangerous. Ideally, these types of vehicles should only be allowed if escorted or properly directed.
If I really wanted to make campus access secure, I would run shuttles from designated areas. In an ideal world, those areas would be owned by the school, but at least 5 minutes from the campus by shuttle.
A small parking area could be created for certain groups of people, but all visitors and guests would be scheduled and shuttled into the campus.
Students would never be allowed to drive to campus. They would need to park and shuttle; or park and bike/walk to school.
School’s should be friendly communities, but communities are often not in the public domain. Access management is important, and it does not have to be overly complicated or expensive.
Group privilege is a privilege. It can be earned. It can be lost. It must be managed.