When I was in elementary school, I rejoiced in an unexpected day off because vandals had broken into my school and trashed the place. When I was in high school, I got another unplanned day off because the suspects in a shooting had gone to ground in the woods around the railroad tracks behind the school. School administrators had all the school buses turn around, while the kids that had already made it to school had to spend the whole day in lockdown. The absolute crowner was during a gym class in middle school, when our softball game was interrupted by a Toyota Tacoma ramping a six-foot rise, then tearing across the baseball and football fields. It was shortly followed by two police cruisers that managed to push the truck into the ditch surrounding the field before the gym teacher could herd us back into the building.
Most kids have likely had a less exciting school experience, but schools still need fences, especially in areas where students are outdoors and at their most vulnerable. Schools should be safe places, and fences for school playgrounds and perimeters help keep students safe, both from those who may have ended up on school grounds accidentally and from those targeting the school specifically.
What a School Fence Protects Against
When most people think of school security they’re thinking of the threats that make the news: kidnappers or students with issues and access to weapons. These are very valid concerns, and a fence isn’t a bad step in improving school security for students. However, the best defense against these very real, and nearly unthinkable, concerns is staff awareness and diligence in applying that awareness. There are many more everyday threats to worry about when choosing a fence for an outdoor play area. These threats include:
- Vagrants are persons passing through without necessarily meaning any harm. These include literal vagrants that might not see anything wrong with cutting across school property or approaching a group of children. This category also includes stray dogs and other animals.
- Vandals are out to do harm, but not necessarily to a child. An older teenager who breaks into a school overnight to paint graffiti is an example. He or she might be intending to send a message, but they can close down sections of a school, or even the entire school, while repairs are made. This category includes thieves after school equipment.
- Villains are perpetrators of other crimes who may end up on or near school property in the commission of their crime or in their efforts to elude police. These may be armed robbery suspects looking for a place to hide or car drivers leading police on a high-speed pursuit.
All of these types of people are threats that sturdy security fencing for a school can deflect, but not all fences are equally capable of deterring these threats.
Picking Effective Fences for School Playgrounds
One of the key things a school fence needs is sufficient height–at least six feet–to stop anyone from simply vaulting it. It also needs to be difficult to climb. Finally, to prevent an experience like the one I had in middle school, a fence should ideally be sturdy enough that a driver thinks twice about trying to drive through it. The most commonly used fencing types each have their advantages and disadvantages.
- Chain link fencing is some of the most common fencing on any type of property. The reason is its one great advantage: price. Chain link fencing is some of the most economical fencing there is. However, that is its only advantage. Its appearance is industrial and basic, and it provides perfect hand and footholds for climbers. This is a serious flaw that prevents it from being a good choice for school security, or preventing truancy. There are also a great many videos of people driving through chain link fences.
- Wooden privacy fences are actually a pretty good choice for student safety. They’re high enough, and their construction is unfriendly to casual vaulting which deters vandals. They’re also substantial enough that driving through them will probably disable a car. Their big drawback is their lack of durability over time, as it doesn’t take long for wood to start rotting and splitting, which makes maintaining a fence over the long haul expensive. These fences’ expanse of wood also makes a tempting canvas for vandals with spray paint, which may also be a factor in why these fences aren’t common around schools.
- Steel panel fences have a number of advantages. Their closely-spaced pickets leave little in the way of hand- and footholds for climbing, and they’re sturdy enough to deter driving through them. Steel picket fences also have the benefit of enabling good visibility, both of students when they’re outside school grounds and of anyone who might be hanging around outside the school’s perimeter.
Of the most common fencing options, steel panel fences come with the most benefits and fewest disadvantages. The one drawback that has occasionally deterred schools is the expense. However, now that panel fences are available which come pre-welded and take very little time to install, fabrication and installation costs are much lower than in the days when fences were put together on-site. A high-quality steel fence will also require very little maintenance over time, which saves on repair costs.
For a steel fence that will last and resist intruders, look for pickets that are over a half inch in width, to prevent bending, and that are held in place by an internal locking mechanism that prevents the fence from being taken apart. In order to stay strong over many years, a steel fence will also need a high-quality coating to prevent rust. Ideally, look for multiple layers of corrosion protection.
One fence that has all these features is the Titan line of steel panel fences from Fortress Fence, available in heights of more than seven feet. These are fully-welded fence panels with pickets that are locked into place with a stainless steel lock rail. To help these fences last, the pre-galvanized coating on the steel is topped with an e-coat for greater rust protection and two layers of powder coating to resist fading from UV light. For more info or to find a dealer or installer, check out the Fortress contact page. Fortress’ dedication to quality is their hallmark, and is evident in the quality of their railing and decking products, too.