At Julius West Middle School in suburban Rockville, Md., all doors are locked after the morning bells ring. Those who arrive once the schoolday begins must buzz to get in, and they are video-recorded as they speak into an intercom. It's one of many examples of how schools have boosted security as the school year begins across the nation. In Prince George's County, Md., near Washington, D.C., school leaders are spending $9.3 million for an array of improvements including buzzers, panic buttons, cameras, uniforms for security personnel and six-foot fencing around portable classrooms at elementary schools.
In Loudoun County, Va., a strong focus is on awareness and training. The district will become one of the nation's first to join the Department of Homeland Security's “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign this month. The security emphasis comes 20 months after the mass shooting in Newtown, Ct., which left 20 students and six staff dead in a rampage by a 20-year-old gunman. This school year extends many of those efforts, some partly funded by state or federal grants. Experts point out that schools are one of the safest places for children and say security upgrades should be driven by factual assessments, not fear. Michael Dorn of Safe Havens International, which works with schools on security issues, said schools across the country and around the world, including in Africa and Asia, have been beefing up security in the past couple of years. “There has definitely been a surge,” he said.