Sometimes, we need to remember to lock our schools–especially elementary campuses–not just to keep the bad guys out, but our students safely inside during classroom hours.

It seems a first-grade student recently slipped away from a Massachusetts school with the intention of walking about three miles home. Apparently, none of the school staff noticed him leaving. Fortunately, he was spotted by a police officer who returned him safely to campus.

The principal sent a letter to parents issued on the last day of classes for the school year. In it she said a review was underway to determine what had gone wrong and promised that whatever improvements were necessary would be made “posthaste.”

This isn’t a difficult fix. During regular class hours, all gates into an elementary school campus should be locked. Usually I recommend this to keep people who have no business getting into the school from doing so. But it also prevents young children from wandering away and possibly becoming lost, injured, or worse.

A video intercom placed at the main entrance can allow visitors to ask permission to enter the school. The students should also have to seek permission in order to leave during the day.

PatrickFielPatrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.

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