Open doors, unlocked side or rear entrances, school stasff who allowed visitors to enter without asking who they were or why they were there–even after the carnage at an Amish school last week, a spot check by Philadelphia Inquirer reporters found a surprising number of security lapses at schools across the region. In spite of rules limiting public access, reporters on a single day walked into more than a dozen schools unannounced and without being challenged.
One expert described The Inquirer’s findings as jarring. “What is shocking is the fact that not only could this happen, but it could happen days after the spate of national shootings that has been the discussion throughout our schools and our society,” said Kenneth S. Trump, a school-safety consultant. Inquirer reporters visited dozens of schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. At some, they found locked doors and tightly controlled access. At others, they found lax security, including some schools that failed to follow their own rules. At Springfield Township High School, where a student took a loaded gun to school this month, a rear door bore a sign that said: “Doors must remain locked at all times.” It was open. A reporter walked through the door and into the cafeteria, past scores of students gathered for lunch, and went unnoticed by two plainclothes security officers on his way to the office. “Your visit revealed a weakness in our external security,” said principal Joseph Roy. Tight security is expensive. In Philadelphia, where gunfire near schools is not uncommon, the 178,000-student district spends $34 million annually to try to keep schools safe.