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Mayor Adrian Fenty 
Strategy for increased school security press release
October 22, 2007




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News Release for Immediate Release
October 22, 2007

Fenty Announces Strategy for Increased School Security

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, joined by key members of his administration, today announced a targeted plan to improve security and safety at schools across the city. The plan will employ recommendations for perimeter security, many of which were identified in a 2004 report authored by the School Perimeter Task Force following a fatal shooting at Ballou Senior High that year. These recommendations were never implemented.

“It is critical that we abide by the law while still ensuring that our students can learn in a safe environment,” said Mayor Fenty. “Unfortunately, when this issue was raised back in 2004, no action was taken. Today we are committing to make sure that this does not continue to go unaddressed.”

When Mayor Fenty took over DC Public Schools (DCPS) in June 2007, it was learned that DC Fire Marshal had identified 2496 fire code violations at schools across the city, including ones intended to be a short-term security fix at Ballou—chains and padlocks on most of its doors. As of today, 2143 fire code violations have been abated with 353 violations remaining, a decrease of nearly 86 percent. Of the remaining violations, 266 are facilities related with the remainder being minor fixes.

However, by meeting the fire code through removal of chains and padlocks at some schools, security issues have resulted. City officials crafted a strategy to address these security issues, beginning with a 3-month, $5 million plan to replace doors at eight targeted schools to improve building security.

OPEFM Security/Door Solutions

As part of the FY08 Stabilization Program, the DC Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM) has examined measures to improve building security though various capital improvements, including new doors, locking mechanisms, identity card readers, digital cameras and monitoring systems. When the DC Fire Marshal identified fire code violations at Ballou in early October, OPEFM staff and consultants met with representatives of DC Public Schools Security, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the DC Fire Marshal to explore remedies.

The solutions identified for Ballou are being developed as a pilot program that will be available for examination and approval by DCPS Security, MPD and the Fire Marshal this week, with work completed in approximately 8-10 weeks. If approved, the same approach will be used at eight other DCPS schools. These measures may also be explored for use at certain middle or junior high schools where security is a significant concern. The system developed for Ballou is readily adaptable to other school facilities and can be implemented concurrently at other schools over the next few months. 

“School security is a vital component of our work during the FY08 Stabilization Program and the ongoing school modernization program,” said OPEFM Executive Director Allen Y. Lew. “All schools need to be welcoming, secure environments. That has not always been the case. Previous measures employed to limit unwanted access to our buildings also created potential fire safety problems. We are correcting this issue in a way that keeps intruders out and provides a more secure environment.”

Using Technology to Keep Kids Safer

Possible solutions include installing delayed-egress hardware that would keep the doors locked during school hours with a security mechanism that would allow a 15-second delayed exit from the inside and alert school personnel when the doors are opened. These doors would also be tied into the existing fire alarm system to release upon a fire event.

The doors would also be able to be controlled separately at a General User Interface at the main security monitoring area. A touch screen would let security open individual doors as necessary and the main entry doors could be set on a timer to lock and unlock according to the schedule of a normal school day. Unauthorized opening of a door would sound an alarm at the main security monitoring area.

Interim Solutions Using Human Capital

As the perimeter security project is underway, MPD will dedicate officers and MPD Academy cadets and recruits to staff unarmed doors. FEMS has also committed to provide staff to assist in the effort.

Attendees of today’s press conference included Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso, FEMS Chief Dennis Rubin, OPEFM Executive Director Allen Lew and DCPS officials. Their respective agencies will work in cooperation to ensure the perimeter security project is completed.

The eight schools undergoing improvements to perimeter security are Ballou, Anacostia, Coolidge, Cardozo, Roosevelt, Wilson, Spingarn and Dunbar Senior High Schools as well as Johnson Junior High School.

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