Spending on School Security Continues to Rise

Spending on School Security Continues to Rise
Door to a classroom | Image by Shutterstock

Sales of security-related products are on the rise as schools across the country ramp up the quality of their doors, cameras, locks, and other protection systems in an attempt to fortify students and faculty against active shooter attacks.

Selling security technologies and services to over 130,000 schools across the U.S. has grown into a multibillion-dollar business, although sales can be sporadic.

Schools, including elementary schools, high schools, and colleges, were projected to spend $3.1 billion on security equipment and services in 2021, according to the research firm Omdia, part of Informa PLC. The firm estimates that the market will grow by 8% yearly as schools upgrade existing systems to add new technologies.

More than 90% of U.S. schools now use security cameras, up from 60% in the 2009–2010 school year.

For more than a decade, Taylor Brothers Doorlock LLC has sold locking systems aimed at preventing home invasions. After the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the company developed a Nightlock system for schools. It is designed for teachers or students to bar doors using an L-shaped metal piece and premounted door and floor plates.

Honeywell International Inc. and other companies, including Alarm.com, have systems that automatically detect gunshots and then call the police. Alarm.com’s Shooter Detection Systems said its sensors use audio and infrared indicators to sense gunshots. The equipment rules out similar noises such as slammed lockers or dropped books.

Rave Mobile Safety’s Panic Button app offers users five emergency options: active assailant, fire, medical, police, and “other.” The company says the app is in use in more than 6,000 schools across the U.S.

The increase in spending on school security has been further stimulated by the Uvalde, Texas incident in which a gunman killed 21 people at an elementary school in May. In response, President Joe Biden signed a bill in June that allocated additional taxpayer dollars to funding school security measures.

In addition to the new federal legislation, several states have passed laws in recent years to tighten school security, some of which require the purchase of security technologies.

Michigan, for example, passed a law allowing schools to use additional locking devices, following concern that local fire marshals could prevent their installation.

Florida and New Jersey require the installation of panic alarms in their schools. Many other states are also using panic-alarm products made by security companies.

In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that $105.5 million in state taxpayer money would be reallocated to various agencies and programs to enhance school security in the state.

Some taxpayer money spent on bolstering school security in Texas will not go toward purchasing devices but funding salaries.

For example, Gov. Abbott recently commissioned the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to create the chief of school safety and security position to “ensure increased communication and collaboration among state agencies to provide a safe environment for Texas students and school faculty.” This person would hold Texas schools accountable for implementing school safety policies effectively and efficiently.

Federal and state governments funnel other money to schools to spend on security. Around $1.7 billion in federal grants could potentially be used by school districts or communities to improve school safety and support mental health initiatives, according to a tally by the Congressional Research Service. Other states have recurring or one-off funding for schools to invest in safety products.

Security technologies are, of course, unable to protect against every possible threat. School districts also need to work with local police departments and train teachers and staff on how to respond to certain dangers, according to security specialist Guy Bliesner, an analyst for the Idaho State Office of School Safety and Security, per The Wall Street Journal.

He cautioned that schools should be careful before investing in unproven technologies, advising that schools should focus first on basic steps such as locking exterior doors and announcement systems that can be heard across the entire school.

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