Schools are in a constant state of change, but the most recent one they’ve been making is for student safety. The introduction of new technology and more rigorous security measures like metal detectors and ID checks, has caused some schools to rethink how their classrooms look and function. With these changes come questions about how this will affect students with different disabilities or learning needs, such as those who rely on sign language interpreters or Braille textbooks. But there’s still hope that the necessary updates can be made without sacrificing accessibility for all students.
1. Installing new locks on classroom doors
This has become a common measure that schools take to keep everyone safe. Have these changes also led to changes in how classrooms operate? Yes, especially in the way electronic doors and locks work alongside old mechanisms like knobs and doorknobs. Interaction with locks can be difficult for students with fine motor impairments or limited manual dexterity; any students who struggle with these tasks may find that it’s difficult or impossible for them to open doors independently.
2. Adding security cameras
Security cameras are not just more visible, but they’ve also become more advanced. Schools are changing the way they use cameras to monitor school grounds and corridors by making them mobile so that they can be moved around the building depending on where the most need for surveillance is required. Security cameras allow schools to observe their students more closely and see who’s coming in and out of the doors. However, cameras that are placed too high or too far back may prevent schools from being able to monitor an entire room.
3. Hiring safety officers to monitor the hallways and classrooms
Schools have long adjusted the structures of their building to take into account moisture mitigation, easy cleanup, and slip injuries but other physical dangers that schools face now must be addressed as well. In response, schools are beefing up security with the addition of safety officers to monitor both hallways and classrooms. The role of these officers may include keeping a watchful eye on students during classes to see if they’re paying attention or need assistance, which can make them a distraction for some students.
4. Installing ID checking systems at the entrances of schools
To prevent strangers from entering buildings, schools are now requiring all visitors to be signed in by school staff before they enter the building, which can make it difficult for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to receive communication from their interpreter or friends that are coming to meet them at school. Some schools are using devices like tablets and digital signage to make this process more accessible for everyone.
5. Using metal detectors and door sensors (on doors and windows)
Metal detectors and door sensors play a crucial role in keeping students safe by detecting any potentially dangerous objects that may weather brought into the building by students or anyone else who isn’t authorized to be there. But the use of metal detectors and door sensors also pose obstacles for students with disabilities because they require them to comply with specific instructions that may not be able to accommodate their needs. For example, children with asthma or other respiratory conditions may have trouble passing through a metal detector without setting it off.
6. Using clear backpacks and security wands for school bags
To prevent students from bringing in any type of unwanted items like guns, knives or other weapons, some schools are now requiring students to use transparent backpacks and carry their belongings out in the open. But this may not be a good idea for everyone; some parents have expressed concerns that it may prevent students from bringing in certain medical equipment, such as insulin pumps and inhalers. Schools might consider allowing parents to provide a list of necessary items for their child that the school will keep on file so that those items don’t cause alarm when they’re brought into school.
The goal of these changes is to ensure that every student feels safe in their learning environment. However, these changes are not without backlash. Parents who have children with disabilities believe that the U.S. educational system needs to provide more support to accommodate this growing population by providing adequate accommodations that ensure their child’s safety as well as their education. For example, some schools do allow parents to request modifications for certain school equipment or policies if they will negatively affect their child, but this is heavily based on the administration of each school. The lack of local, state, and federal regulations concerning accessibility in schools means that it’s up to each individual school to decide how they’d like to accommodate students with varying needs.