School Finance 708: School Security at SAS

School Finance 708

School Security at SAS

At SAS we strive to maintain a friendly, welcoming atmosphere by keeping our security measures as discreet as possible. However, as a visible symbol of the United States and of Singapore's international community, we must err on the side of caution in today's uncertain world. Recent events in Florida have refocused attention on school security, so we take this opportunity to explain the evolution and current state of our security precautions.

Early SAS campuses were unsecured, with students, neighbors, and even pets wandering through at will. During the 1970s, the school installed fencing and hired watchmen, but it was the September 11th attacks in 2001 that launched school security as we know it today. While the government deployed Gurkha soldiers to international schools, SAS also engaged additional security guards and invested in physical barriers, technology, and professional advice. These four areas remain the mainstays of our security structure.

Since 2003, security manager Ret. Major Isaac Benjamin has overseen our security staff, which includes SAS employees and contracted security guards. Security personnel control campus access round-the-clock, helped by CCTV surveillance. We also coordinate security procedures with our contractors. Yeap bus drivers, for instance, conduct pre-trip maintenance checks and monitor bus interiors throughout the day. Looking forward, we plan to run emergency drills with Yeap and SAS staff so bus riders may respond with confidence to unforeseen events during the school commute.

SAS upgraded its physical security extensively between 2004 and 2006 with a grant from the US State Department. This system now includes fencing, gates, and barriers, giving us flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. The current threat level, for instance, allows us to follow standard security measures. If it rises, we can respond immediately by tightening access controls, barring taxis and licensed private-hire vehicles from campus, and raising security barriers.

Security technologies complement our physical precautions. Our surveillance system can spot problems throughout the school and around its perimeter. With generous support from the US Embassy, this network was recently upgraded with additional fence-line cameras. The SASCard system, in place since 2011, helps our guards manage campus access, allows Yeap to track bus riders, and underpins our vehicle access arrangements. As part of their agreement with SAS, Yeap Transport has also invested in technology, including video cameras, GPS tracking, and bus routing software.

We routinely solicit professional advice about campus safety, off-campus trips, cybersecurity, and bus security. We conduct tabletop exercises, commission an annual security audit, and have a separate security firm review our measures periodically. SAS has a close working relationship with the US Embassy's Regional Security Office, which can give us advice about student trips and conduct campus inspections. From time to time, we receive guidance from US Navy and US government specialists. In September, SAS hosted the second Asian Schools Institute for Safety and Security (ASISS) Conference, which you can read more about here.

The Singapore government also works to keep us safe. Patrol cars routinely drive through campus and police officers and Police Tactical Unit specialists conduct perimeter foot patrols. For big functions like the International Fair, we liaise closely with the police. If a specific threat arises, the government helps us craft our response and can call in the Protective Security Command, a specialist unit within the police force. We are confident that the Singapore government, sensitive to our visibility and proximity to the border, also takes its own steps to protect our campus and neighborhood.

Administratively, all security-related matters are managed by Chief Operating Officer Matt Rogers and Director of Facilities and Services Anthony Wong. The SAS safety committee plays an advisory role in school safety matters. Composed of deputy principals, security personnel, and representatives from the school nurses, human resources, and facilities, this committee reviews safety protocols, drills, and emergency plans. It also ensures that divisional staff understand what to do in a crisis to keep students safe and calm.

We hope this article helps readers understand how we balance a warm and friendly school atmosphere with the precautions necessary to keep our school community safe. Parents with questions or concerns about security matters, or with suggestions for future articles, are welcome to contact Mr. Rogers at mrogers@sas.edu.sg. We look forward to hearing from you.