Why ASIS’s New School Standard is So Important

By Michael J. Martin | March 14, 2024 | 3 min read
School safety

It’s never “the right time” to talk about school safety.

Before an incident occurs, school boards and administrators are often focused on other critical projects, like instruction or infrastructure. After an incident, the school community is too busy recovering to talk about improving security controls. It’s a vicious circle that keeps schools from being proactive about security, but it’s about to end.

Later this year, ASIS International is releasing its first school safety standard. The standard provides guidance for the development, implementation, maintenance, and continual improvement of a school security program for K-12 schools. It’s the first of its kind, and we expect to see a dramatic change in the way schools prepare for and prevent safety incidents in schools.

A look at school safety in the U.S.

School shootings like, 2021’s Oxford High School shooting, usually spring to mind when we discuss school safety, and for good reason. Active shooters in schools have become increasingly common over the last 20 years, and while popular culture is often blamed for teen violence, adults are most often to blame. Courts in Michigan recognized this for the first time this month when the mother of the Oxford school shooter was charged with manslaughter for failing to get her son mental health support and allowing him access to weapons.

While school shootings dominate the headlines, school safety encompasses much more than active shooters. Like many types of organizations, K-12 schools are the setting for a range of safety-related issues. Some are common to all workplaces, such as fire safety and slips and falls. Others are specific to schools, such as bullying and classroom discipline.

Some of the most alarming safety issues are related to bullying and mental health. Since 2000 the suicide rate for teens and young adults has risen by 52%. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among kids aged 10 to 24. The most at-risk teens are girls, minorities, and members of the LBGTQ+ community. Schools and parents have a responsibility to protect and support those children.

How will the ASIS standard help?

U.S. schools are an anomaly when it comes to managing physical security. In almost every other organization, certain questions are asked after a safety incident:

  1. When was the last time your site was assessed?

  2. What were the results of the assessments?

  3. What did you do to correct the deficiencies?

The ASIS standard is expected to be comprehensive, covering a number of safety issues, from basic safety and security practices (best practices for onloading and offloading buses, access control, etc.), to programs for ensuring that all students are engaged and included in school.

Until now, there’s never been any standard governing school safety outlining the minimum necessary security controls for a school.

While the ASIS standard isn’t law, it is a standard that has been written by the best security minds in the industry. Just the fact that it exists will force schools to discuss safety in a way they haven’t previously. Just having a standard gives organizations a measuring stick, and also a list of questions that should be asked after (and hopefully before) an incident.

The myth of ‘If we don’t know about it, we can’t be held liable’

The ASIS school standard also helps to keep officials from ignoring known safety issues. We’ve written about liability on this blog before; sometimes people think that ignorance of a security problem means they can’t be held liable for that issue after an incident.

First of all, that is not true. An organization is responsible for safety deficiencies even if the leadership does not know about it. Secondly, sometimes decision-makers are ignoring the issue rather than truly ignoring it. This standard will help to change this mindset by making schools look more critically at their risk.

How can schools prepare for the new ASIS standard?

The ASIS school standard is expected to be released late in the second quarter or early in the third quarter for this year. With that in mind, now is the time to start preparing for it.

Schools can do this by conducting a baseline assessment of their security, to see what their risk is right now, before the standard is released. This will allow them to evaluate their current safety posture against the standard’s recommendations.

In other words, now is the time to have the school safety discussion.

Need help assessing your inherent risk? Contact Circadian Risk to talk to an expert about how to assess your site and prepare for the new standard.

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