Do TV News Hidden Camera Security Investigations Hurt Or Harm Schools?

I've seen several news reports in the last few months like this one. A TV news crew, sometimes with hidden cameras, walks into an elementary school to show how easy it is for someone to get access. Then they report on the security holes. I can see why they do it. It's an easy story to put together, and it's controversial if they get inside of a school unchallenged.

However, now the reporter for the above story is under investigation after entering an elementary school with a hidden camera in a jurisdiction where it was against the law to enter a school without registering at the front office. The school says reports like this expose vulnerabilities to outsiders. The TV station says police are targeting the reporter to call attention away from lax security. My question:

So the school basically wants to rest on 'security by obscurity' and is mad that it was exposed so easily? Unfortunately, things are rarely fixed by simply telling organizations their problems. It would be like IPVM sending a letter: "Dear Mr. Manufacturer, your marketing claims X, Y and Z are wrong. Could you please correct them?" The reality is that most organizations only change under public pressure.


Your comment assumes something is broken and needs to be fixed. While kids are abducted and killed at school, schools are a safe place for the vast majority of kids the vast majority of time. From a Bloomberg article a few days ago:

"Statistically, the chance of a child being killed on a campus is small. Only 19 of 1,369 youth homicides in the U.S. from July 2009 to June 2010 -- about 1.4 percent -- occurred at a school, according to the U.S. Education Department. Eleven students were killed at schools in the same period the following year, the data show."

I think the 24 hour news cycle and the "if it bleeds it leads" outlook of news organizations is unduly alarming a lot of people.

I can't remember the last time I read of a kid being abducted from a school.

Every dollar (or $5 billion dollars) spent on security is less money that can be spent on teachers and supplies, or spent on mental health for the community - spending that might have prevented Adam Lanza from doing what he did.

I also think the school is overreacting by going after the reporter.

Sorry for the rant.

Andy, great feedback!

My comment assumes that schools have policies in place to restrict public access. Is this incorrect? My understanding is that reporters are essentially saying "Look, you say you restrict access but look how easy it is for us to get it." Yes/no?

As for crime stats, ~600,000 students suffered violence in schools in 2011 (see our US School Security Statistics Reviewed post).

That, all said, to be clear I am not pushing to spend more money on school security as much as saying if the schools claim they offer such security, it should work.


I agree that most schools have policies in place to keep strangers out. One of the problems is that schools have a lot of doors. Some i am familiar with have between 6 to 10, just counting the main doors and doors at ends of halls and wings. You can lock these doors and give access control badges or keys to staff, but unless you have an officer at each and every door it is just not feasible to control access all the time. Kids out at recess need to go to the bathroom, parents need to drop off forgotten lunches, cafeterias need food deliveries, custodians need cleaning supplies, etc. If you walked up to a locked door at an elementary school and waited a few minutes you can be pretty sure that a student would walk by soon. How many kids would ignore a friendly looking adult knocking at the door asking to be let in?

Even schools that buzz visitors in (like Sandy Hook) normally leave the doors open right before school starts and at the end of the day. What school can afford to check the ID of every student, parent and visitor when hundreds of kids and dozens of teachers, parents and visitors are arriving in a very short time?

What is happening is that most schools (in my limited experience) seem to be making a reasonable effort to control access, but given their financial and public use constraints, they are never going to be complete. Since they can't say, "we are keeping your kids as safe as our budget allows, and by the way, your kid is more likely to be shot off school grounds" they are an easy target for reporters.

There are ~ 55 million K-12 students. Take that times 180 and you get 9,900,000,000 student/school days. Divide that by 600,000 violent incidents and you get 1 incident per 16,500 days.

I honestly don't know what schools should do. They can't tell parents to just chill out, the odds are in your kids favor, but they can't meet the often impossible demands placed on them by the public all riled up by stories of horrific school shootings. I don't even have children, but to this day I am sickened by the thought of somebody shooting first graders so I can't even imagine how parents feel about this. Unfortunately until schools have unlimited budgets and omniscient staff and administration - and every single person who is unbalanced gets recognized and treated - school shootings will continue. Jeesh, talk about a sucky way to end a comment.

If the school is being honest with themselves, then there should not have been any way to gain entry by the reporter, the school would have been locked down, and controlled, locked entry points would have been the only option.

Since the school was not locked down, and there can be NO REASON why the school was not locked down (God, how much prior notice do you need to have?); this is all about being vindictive for making the school look like the fools they were.

This Draws Attention to the negatives of the systems in place.

Gives no alternatives,solutions,avenues or even ideas of where to go with the problems.

We all know the school systems out there have a lot of holes .

1. limit access points

2. I D everyone accessing the property

3. put technologies in place to screen, detect, review human attitudes and the social landscape or enviornment

4. set up higher standards for the schools like the private sector ( expectations )

5. set up higher consequences and penaltys for their actions

Not Prisons, Guards, Guns, Jails

Counselors, Big Brothers,sisters, people to really be there for the kids

Higher Standards, Higher Rewards, Better Social Rewards & Enviornments