PIN Numbers for Tiny Pre-School?

Hi tkissbyafi
Readers! This woman needs our help devising good arguments to bring to her pre-k’s PTA. Over to you! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I’m a regular reader of your blog and love to hear your input and that of your readers on Free-Range issues.

Well, my Free-Range issue came up while I was at preschool orientation for parents the other day. The orientation leader announced that all the fund-raising money this year will be used to buy a security system. I first thought I’d misunderstood. I wondered why a small co-op preschool in a church in a quiet neighborhood would need a security system. So I asked about it and the leader said every family will have a PIN number to punch in to open the one entrance door, and that this is the norm at preschools.

I was sort of stunned into silence at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me. First, in the two years I’ve been a parent there, I’ve never heard of a “security breach” or any kind of threat, or even a minor incident like a confused church visitor wandering around the preschool. In fact, I’ve never even seen a parishioner or church employee in the preschool part of the building.

Second, the kids are all in classes with a teacher and two adult helpers and they don’t go anywhere alone, even the bathroom or the drinking fountain. (The kids are ages 2, 3 and 4.)

Ultimately, I think there will be more problems with people forgetting PIN numbers, or holding the door for other parents, which I’m sure will be against the rules. Plus, once this security system goes in, it just seems like it will feed the feeling that there is something to fear and that this is actually a good use of our donations and fund-raising dollars.

I am curious about your general opinion on this and also to hear from you or others in the know if this is the norm at preschools now. — A.

I don’t know if this is the norm now — I hope it isn’t, but I did just hear of another instance of this in a college town pre-K.  I totally agree it is a waste of money that could be spent on so many other things — books, blocks, art supplies. And if a school is already so well-funded that it lacks for nothing except excessive security measures, maybe (in the spirit of a church-run institution) the money should be diverted to a  school that lacks the stuff yours has.

This is like putting a five point harness on a swing: A new, unnecessary security precaution that could catch on, if and when it starts to seem just “better safe than sorry.” Even though it’s actually insane. — Lenore

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119 Responses to PIN Numbers for Tiny Pre-School?

  1. Joette September 8, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    I can’t address whether this is the “norm” for pre-schools, but I can tell you that my son’s pre-school didn’t have anything of the sort. It was an Easter Seals pre-school, which has schools all over the country. It was also smack dab in the heart of a not-so-great neighborhood. If any school might have needed that kind of security, you’d have thought his would.

    Now, with that said, there WAS a full-time receptionist at the front desk and she did have a button she could use to secure the doors from her desk, primarily to keep children from running out of the building and into the parking lot without their parent/guardian.

    If there’s no one watching the door full time, might the adults be worried about one of the babies eloping? Or is the security system more for the peace of mind of the adults to keep other adults who don’t belong out? If so, could there be a better way to address helping the adults to feel secure?

  2. Uly September 8, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    To my knowledge, the swings with harnesses are for disabled children who presumably *need* the harness.

  3. Michelle September 8, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    My girls go to a small church preschool near downtown here in the city we live in. The only security measures in place here are 1) The front door is locked between drop off and pick up time and 2) If they do not know the person picking up the child (ie friend or grandparent) they check their ID and check to make sure they are listed as authorized to pick up. And that seems to do the trick.

  4. Janice September 8, 2010 at 3:14 am #

    I also love reading here, have only commented a few times and those were quite some time ago, but I thought I’d share my experience.

    My son went to a preschool where the front door was locked at all times. There was a pin-pad or you could be buzzed in. I believe part of the reason was that often times there was no one in the front reception area and the upper rooms were empty when children went outside or into the lower level library and it had to do with theft primarily and then secondary concern of safety.

  5. Jen Wagner September 8, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    My children are 7 and 10, so they haven’t been in preschool for awhile, but when they were, that WAS the norm. The door was ALWAYS locked at the few different preschools they both attended. Sad but true.

  6. Lynn September 8, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    At our preschool, doors are locked during certain times, open for pick up and drop off. If a parent needs to get in during “locked” times, there’s an intercom and they’re buzzed in. Yeah, it’s a security system, but certainly not of the over-the-top pin number system, which I could see being aggravating.

  7. Jen M September 8, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    Unfortunately, from my experience I’d say this is normal. Both day cares my kids have been at had PIN entry at all times. The one we’re at right now has a keypad on the door with one PIN used by all parents, and a separate keypad with individual PINs we have to check kids in and out when we drop off and pick up.

  8. Elfir September 8, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    A few years ago, I happened to stop by the preschool I once went to. They have high tech locks now. It was really creepy. And incredibly out-of-place feeling on a big 19th century style building (on the edge of a historical district).

    Pet Peeve: The N in PIN stands for number. No reason to say “Personal Identification Number Number”.

  9. Jen Wagner September 8, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    @Elfir – totally agree on the pet peeve!

  10. Jess L. September 8, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Our preschool has such a system, though for good reason – we’ve actually found sketchy people wandering around the campus before, probably looking for computers to come back and steal later. 🙁 However, our school is located in a somewhat questionable area. The entrances are also secured from the inside either via combo locks (gates outside) or height-sensor locks (the front doors), because we have had children attempt to leave before when a teacher turns their back for a moment! Additionally, California state licensing requires that exits to the outdoors not be operable by children in a preschool setting. The truly absurd part about THAT, however, is that the firecode explicitly requires that exits to the outdoors MUST be operable to children. No one has ever given us a satisfactory answer on how we’re supposed to deal with that contradiction!

  11. Amy B September 8, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    My daughters first preschool had this…it was laughable because 1. it was unnecessary and 2. being the wonderful and nice parents that we are every single parent would hold the door open for anyone following behind. With five classes going on we as parents had no clue about the parents from the other four classes…but we held the door open anyway. (never bothered me but this is just another reason not to have a system like this). This preschool also didn’t allow parents to bring in any treats that weren’t store bought in single serving packages their reason had nothing to do with food allergies (which I could understand), so instead of making cupcakes we had to buy snack packs 🙁

    There is a preschool in Michigan where I lived when my son was pre-school aged…It was in a cabin on the edge of a small block of woods, run by our local nature center, with more time outside running around learning about the earth and nature than time sitting at a desk. (It’s preschool after all!) I have been searching for that type of preschool (or anything even comparable) in our new area but I guess I just didn’t know how lucky we had it.

  12. kristen September 8, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    This makes me love my son’s preschool even more! There is no security system. The school is in 3 different buildings which you (gasp) have to walk outside to get to. The teachers will not allow your child to go with anyone but you or someone you have designated and informed them of PERIOD. That pretty well does the trick. Unless a school has had some kind of specific problem it seems the security system just adds a feeling of insecurity and danger that should not exist.

  13. EricS September 8, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    Completely, and utterly ridiculous! Paranoia at it’s best. If people are so paranoid to make pre-schools in quiet communities into prison type atmosphere (because that’s what it is…”lockdown”), why doesn’t the government make it mandatory to chip both parents and kids. That way, EVERYONE can be identified with their kids. Oh, wait…I know why they haven’t…because it’s retarded! And waste of money and resources. Funds and resources that can be put to better use, like catching REAL criminals doing REAL crimes, homeless people, poverty, health care, etc… Not harassing a parent just picking up their kids. I don’t know about anyone else, but I remember when ALL my teachers knew who my parents were. They knew who their students’ parents were. But then again, it’s paranoid and opportunistic parents that most likely has caused teachers to be more less involved with their students. Sad, sad, sad. Some people should not be having kids.

    Once I have kids of my own, I’m going to make sure that they attend a NORMAL school. And if that means home school, so be it. I would never want my kids exposed to that paranoid inflicted environment.

  14. Sherri September 8, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    Sort of the norm, and… I’ve been involved in a number of situations – preschool / daycare in the city with no security system – one in the burbs with a key swipe system (and if you’re going that route, the PIN would work better – whether or not you find it sad – anyone could pick up a lost swipe card) – one on a university campus with a receptionist / sign-out system (you had to be on a list or have permission) ….. Didn’t mind any of them ….. each of them seemed to have it all under control. When I was in a custody situation with my two year old when my very short first marriage broke up, I was ever grateful for a security system at all at these places. I don’t mind them.

  15. Paul Souders September 8, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    Our kids’ preschool has these. It’s in a nice neighborhood in Portland Oregon. Everyone uses the same PIN and it changes every year. From the perspective of “child abductions” it’s unnecessary. However the school is right next to a busy road so I appreciate that they need some kind of kid-resistant locks, and this does the trick.

  16. B.S.H. September 8, 2010 at 4:04 am #

    My kids went to a very Orthodox Jewish preschool and there was a security gate with a pin to open it to reach the parking lot and a pin to enter the main gate to the school. I would say this is the norm.

  17. Ali September 8, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    1. Chances are the child will know the person who assaults them. Meaning it will be someone IN the church, rather than OUT of the church. In Denver a couple months ago a worker was arrested for assaulting the kids…no amount of PIN codes would have prevented it.

    2. Most Church based programs are *small*. Meaning within a couple weeks of school starting, everyone knows each other, kids know the teachers/parents and vice versa. Someone who is out of place will stick out like a sore thumb. (When my kids were in a small program at a Church, very similar to yours my brother in law -emergency contact- was given the third degree when he went to pick up my kids. He stuck out since no-one had ever seen him before and knew who he was) Again PIN codes won’t help when there is “community” and people get to know each other.

    3. What happens when the power goes out AND the batteries fail -we are talking long shot what-ifs here, aren’t we? the kids are then locked out of the building.


  18. Elizabeth September 8, 2010 at 4:12 am #

    All the preschools I’ve looked at have had a PIN pad, except that the one we had in the Boston area had a handprint identifier instead.

  19. shortylion September 8, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    My daughter just started pre-school at our synagogue. The way the preschool is set up, is there are doors to go to the playyard area, which have no PIN number, although the doors can be locked by a key. The (one) door to the nursery school you need to either know the PIN number or knock on the door and someone will let you in. I’m guessing it was there long before we were ever on the scene.

  20. Kim September 8, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    I had a keycard to get into my son’s preschool as well. It seemed like overkill at the time. I don’t know how I would react to a hand print identifier. That seems a bit paranoid.

  21. JulieD September 8, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    Our school made us check in at the front office, sign a book, then wear a badge whenever we came into the buildings to visit or pick up our kids. Then we had to return the badge and sign out when we left!

    One day i forgot to give the badge back. No one noticed. I don’t even have children in that school anymore, but I still have the badge sitting in a drawer somewhere. (never did remember to give it back.)

    I wish I had advice for how to combat this kind of thing. At the time we were in the school, I was of the No-Range parenting mindset. Even though I saw the ridiculousness of their rules, I still obediently signed in every time… just in case! (not that they ever checked our signatures with the names on file…)

    It’s pseudo-security. It does nothing what-so-ever to make your kids safer, but it sure makes you feel like you’re “doing something”. Which is the goal… I guess…

  22. Arianne September 8, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    I love this part: “And if a school is already so well-funded that it lacks for nothing except excessive security measures, maybe (in the spirit of a church-run institution) the money should be diverted to a school that lacks the stuff yours has.”

    I once was a substitute teacher at a school that had a system like this, but it was in the worst area of town, very near a mental hospital, prison, and train tracks (transients), and had many children that were in sort of scary family situations. I could understand it then. Otherwise, yeah, definitely overkill.

  23. Arianne September 8, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    Oh, and also, we just recently installed something similar in our church nursery (key chain tags to scan in). One time a family member who had attended there regularly since his own childhood went to pick up his kids and forgot his nursery number (the one that coordinated with the one on a sticker on his kid’s back that you hand in to the nursery workers at pick up) and got the run around big time. They refused to give him his child until they checked everything out. He was fuming and was like, “Give me my kid!!” I’m thinking that probably didn’t make him feel very secure about placing his children there.

  24. Kevin M September 8, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    The preschool my wife used to work for had a pin-pad at the front door. Everyone had the same PIN. It is in a good neighborhood but near a busy intersection. It was a privately run school.

    I assume part of the reasoning was to allow employees in the building instead of giving out a bunch of keys (and having to re-key the locks when an employee is terminated).

  25. Steve September 8, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Give the preschool manager a copy of “Free-Range Kids – the book – and suggest she might be pleasantly surprised by what she reads.

    Better yet, buy several copies and pass them out to key people. A good book has a way of being passed around, so your influence might be far-reaching.

  26. EricS September 8, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    @Sherri: I can understand security being convenient in a situation like yours. But really, if teachers weren’t so afraid in being more involved with their students, all they need is information from a parent that certain relatives are not allowed to pick up the child, and they can physically keep an eye out, and not rely on a security system that can easily be circumvented, especially if the teachers no longer feel they have to keep an eye out because of said security system. The point being people have become a community of untrusting individuals. When a close tight community is better than any security system. It never runs out of power, there are no electronic systems that fail, it’s a human mind that assesses a situation and not a computer who deals with things as YES and NO (no common sense). And a live person can easily do things to keep a child safe that a card swipe, detector, or computer can ever do. ie. move a child to a secure area, make a call on the spot, physically protect the child.

    To much emphasis on relying on technology (technology that has proven can be faulty), than the common mind of a person.

  27. Donna September 8, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    I don’t think that this is that unusual. The door to my daughter’s preschool is locked at all times. Someone at the front desk has to hit a button to unlock the door. If they don’t know you when you come in, they ask who you are picking up, check the list to see if you’re authorized and ask for ID. If they know you, you just go back and pick up your kid.

    I don’t have a problem with a perpetually locked door at a daycare because I don’t like the idea that people could come into the school and wander around without anyone knowing that they were there. I feel the same about any other business. I’ve never worked at a non-retail business that wasn’t somewhat secure – either a receptionist at the door or locked work areas. We’re certainly not worried about being abducted but we’d kinda like to keep our computers and not have to deal with clients randomly walking into our office unannounced.

    I wonder if this was just seen as an easier way to handle things. My child is at a large center so having administrators do their work at a front desk is not a big deal but in a smaller school it may be easier to put in a punch pad than to rearrange work stations so someone can see who’s coming in and out.

  28. Taylor September 8, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    If they wants the kids to be safe, might I suggest a retina scanner for the system or RFID implants. I think a lurking child predator could easily use binoculars to see the PIN or PINs in action, and then KABLAMO! he’s on the inside with the presumption of having obtained the PIN through legitimate channels!

    OK, now on with my real response.

    For the record, I’ve never seen or heard of (before now) a preschool that required a PIN for entrance. So to me it’s not the norm at all.

    Maybe at first blush it seems a little trivial, but A’s point about holding the door for others really sticks out in my mind. I think it’s actually a big deal. The polite thing to do is to hold the door for someone. If they install the PIN entry system, they are throwing money out the door unless they don’t make a rule against holding the door for other people. So I figure they’ll make the rule.

    Who’s going to want to follow it? Like Amy B wrote above, no one. Why? Because, for Pete’s sake, most people are nice. Most people, at least when dropping of their kids at preschool, are polite. In general I don’t think rules should be made against being nice and polite unless there is a pressing reason. It doesn’t sound like there is a pressing reason. Since the system necessitates the rule, I wouldn’t want the system.

    Rules that are on the books but not enforced, or are not even intended to be enforced, generally drive me bonkers. It’s a personal quirk.

  29. Uly September 8, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Hey, Lenore, your article on walking to school made it onto Pat’s Papers. That’s, uh, the Pat on NY1.

  30. Uly September 8, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    Also, LOL, I keep meaning to comment about this and forgetting.

    The Just Bugs Me for Toy Story on TVTropes (don’t read TVTropes, you’ll never again re-enter the world of the living) has this choice comment, in response to “Why didn’t the toys just break a window to escape daycare?”

    Hamm calls them the “best children-proof” windows in existence. That surely means a lot in terms of strength.

    * Think about it. It’s a daycare for small children. Of course it has to be strong, to prevent some loon from trying to break in and potentially harming the children. If it were so thin that a toy could break through it, then it’d be the absolute worst daycare ever.


  31. Rebecca O September 8, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    I would ask if the problem has to do with theft or custody those seem more likely than stranger danger. A preschool I worked at was broken into and afterwards so were several of the families houses. I have also been through lock downs in fear of angry non-custodial parent.

    Our preschool simply has a card you fill out with the names of the people who can pick up your kid and they check Id if need be. None of the preschool we looked at had the system you described.

  32. Taylor September 8, 2010 at 5:08 am #

    [Pardon me. Above, I meant to say “…they are throwing money out the door unless they make a rule against…”]

  33. Andy September 8, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    Expose the real motive. Find out who got sold on the idea by their friend in the security system business.

  34. se7en September 8, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    If this weren’t so obviously disturbing then it would be laughable!!! People often suggest we are over protective for homeschooling… But there are no security checks at the gate, no pin codes and no bars, no sirens or hand print i.d.’s either. My kids are free to come and go “within reason” as they please. It seems there is over protective and there is completely paranoid…

  35. Tom Darling September 8, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    Our local school got a buzzer so that people have to buzz the office, look into a camera and be buzzed in. When I asked at a faculty meeting about security issues I got a non-answer about it not costing our school money and it being about the kids.

    I have been told that parents without parental custody have shown up in classrooms and tried to take their child out of school. I guess this is another layer of security when they know something hopping with a family.

    The reality is that any adult could put on a brown shirt and put a package under their arm and get buzzed in. Our office is busy, and adults come and go all of the time. Perhaps the mere presence scares kids off. My fear is that security becomes a kind of joke–we relax our normal concerns because, hey, they have a buzzer–and we also get too used to be watched.

  36. Roberta September 8, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    The “day-out” program my kids went to ages 18 m-4 years had a PIN pad and it didn’t bother me. The area was a bit sketchy and there were occasions when you’d find a homeless person sleeping near the entry. In our winters I had no doubt that if the door was open they’d be in the church immediately, just to stay warm. I don’t actually recall if it kept the kids from getting out, but I don’t think it did.
    Just last week an obviously drunk man wandered into our band practice room in a similar (unlocked) building, and it did quite disconcert the 18 adults in there. Can only imagine how a preschool would react in a similar situation.

  37. KateNonymous September 8, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Neither of the day cares we considered for our daughter have a security system. One had locked doors and only the director or her assistant directors could let in unknown adults. The other has a sign-in sheet. Both have lots of adult supervision for the kids. I’m fine with this.

  38. Nell September 8, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    We’ve used two very different preschools: one a single classroom co-op preschool, and the other a larger daycare/preschool with many more children and teachers. The larger used a PIN system, which didn’t really bother me, but there wasn’t much of a sense of community at that school either: parents punched in, dropped off their kids and left. The small, co-op preschool, on the other hand, had a wonderful sense of community and only minimal security. Like the school that you describe, the door was locked between drop off and pick up and the children (2-5 year olds) were always supervised by the teacher or a parent volunteer.

    It seems to me that the members of the school should seriously consider the effect that using a PIN pad could have on the sense of community among parents at the school, in addition to contributing to the ever-growing illusion of danger.

  39. bittmann September 8, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    As an insurance professional, I can tell you that here in California, it is a requirement of most policies on schools that if there is no full-time security, that schools have some sort of keyed system to get in. Certainly a PIN-enabled door lock is far less expensive, more secure and easier to update/alter than something that uses a physical key.

    I agree that is is absolutely unnecessary, but please, if insurance costs are the reason they’re beginning this policy, be prepared to offer to pay the difference (i.e., put your money where your mouth is).

    That said – my personal opinion is that this level of security is ridiculous and unnecessary. My professional opinion is that it’s good business sense for the school (and certainly for the insurance company).

  40. Kym September 8, 2010 at 6:16 am #

    “The area was a bit sketchy and there were occasions when you’d find a homeless person sleeping near the entry. In our winters I had no doubt that if the door was open they’d be in the church immediately, just to stay warm.”

    There was a time when churches left their doors open precisely so that the less fortunate could seek shelter inside. It’s a sad testament to the state of religion that churches now turn up their noses at the homeless having the audacity to shelter from the wind in their doorway…

  41. Pre-school Hotel, what room please? September 8, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Assuming the employees are all CORI’d and SORI’d and trained… To get *complete* safety from abuse, why not just use the keypad to keep the relatives out, and never let the kids go home?

  42. knutty knitter September 8, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    I’ve never seen any sort of security system on any of our schools at any level. They lock the doors at night and unlock them in the morning and thats it.

    In the pre school we know everybody anyhow and parents wait in the hallway for collection and end of session. They can then come and go and talk to us etc.

    Any other level you are supposed to go to the office just because they will know where everyone is. You aren’t supposed to interrupt a class but there are no barriers except a closed door.

    What is it with all this paranoia,

    viv in nz

  43. msmama September 8, 2010 at 7:31 am #

    I actually picked the one preschool in my area that didn’t have a locked door.

    Certainly that’s not the reason I picked the preschool (or at least the only reason) but, call me crazy, I think I can tell my 2 1/2 year old to NOT leave school without me and he’ll listen.

    When quizzing other parents about their preschool choices I was shocked at the number of parents that cited “non locked doors” as the reason they didn’t send their kids to this particular school.

  44. Catherine Scott September 8, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    Maybe Australia is to blame for this idiocy.

    When my youngest, who is now 12, was 3 or 4 she went to a preschool where they decided they should up the security, ‘just in case’, natch, as there’d been nothing happen that indicated that this was a good idea.

    Their (the staffs’) excuse was that maybe some non-access parent would come along and snatch his or her child. (Not even sure there were any such kids at the centre at the time.)

    Anyway, the first attempt at security upping was to simply lock the front door so that parents had to knock and knock and knock some more to get someone to let them in so they could collect their child.


    1. drove parents nuts

    2. meant that staff had to leave kids unattended to answer the door, over and over, an actual real accident risk, I’d have thought.

    I believe they went with a pin system after we had left the district.

    I suspect a lot of this is copy cat crime stuff, i. e the pre-school up the road gets one and the well meaning ninnies at other preschools go ‘gosh, we should get one, too’.



  45. Jess September 8, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    i personally think all day cares should have either a PIN or swipe card lock.
    the last center i was at only had a buzzer and the teacher in the front room would open the door and let the person in when they walked past the door they would let them go or ask can i help you. It didn’t do the child who’s dad came to try and kidnap her a lot of help.

  46. Chris Bannister September 8, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Earlier this year a pin pad security code was installed in the daycare my daughter attends, which is in a suburban area. The neighbors are a church, a subdivision and an old farm field. My issue with the system (besides it being completely unnessecary) is that it came with a tuition increase after many parents had gone to the director concerning the possibility of changing the breakfast fare (which consists of cheese and crackers, dry cereal, etc) It was decided that a security system in a virtually crime free area was more important than the most important meal of the day.

  47. gramomster September 8, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    I guess our preschool has a sort of hybrid of the close co-op and large center thing going on. There are four rooms, infants, toddlers, young preschool, preschool. They are in the lower level of a K-5 elementary. There is a keypad on the front door. There is not dedicated office staff, and when we were looking at it, I had to kind of wait around for someone to see me, as there was no administrator type just sitting in the office. They are all teachers, and all the teachers know ALL the kids. Mostly the parents all know each other, and we have outside park days and other stuff in order to foster community.

    The door to the preschool is the only door in the building that has the keypad. The elementary has several entrances, but only the one is shared with the preschool. I think that is probably the primary reason. Also, we don’t have specific drop off/pick up times. They are open x-y hours, and parents come and go, picking up, dropping off, stopping in to nurse at lunch, at all times. Additionally, of course, with the elementary upstairs, there is the after school rush of older kids and parents, parents of those older kids at all different times, field trips coming and going… so, to me, the preschool entrance having a pad is logical, and not at all intrusive or about hypervigilance. In fact, more the opposite… to retain autonomy for parents to come and go from the school at will, without the ‘approval’ of someone behind a desk.

    Now, the high school my kids went to had intercoms on every door. If you wanted to get in there, even as a student after tardy bell, you had to ring, tell a box what you needed, and, if you were a parent, you would get buzzed in. If you were a student who was late, security came to escort you after making sure your photo ID was visible.

  48. BPFH September 8, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    PIN numbers? Personal Identification Number numbers?

    Sorry. Pet peeve. Sort of like ATM machine. (Though if there’s a machine that makes ATMs, there may actually BE an ATM machine. 🙂 )

  49. Alexicographer September 8, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    Neither of the (small, home-based) daycares we’ve used has had such a system; they’ve just got low adult-kid ratios and high parent involvement. A key factor influencing our selection of both is that the kids spend a LOT of time outside and while I realize it’s possible to have locked fenced areas, my general sense is that the propensity to keep kids in secured areas is negatively correlated with the willingness to let them play outdoors and/or unhindered by adult involvement (not unsupervised, but left alone to make up their own games/activities unless they are endangering themselves or others…), which are two things we think are important.

    OTOH, we have a “PIN” on our house (front deadbolt), which I love as it means I don’t have to carry a housekey around, we can give the combination to visitors, change it as needed (I think virtually everyone in town had a key to our old deadbolt by the time we and my stepkids got done handing them out!), and so forth. It cost $100 (google “Schlage combination deadbolt” to see a version), so even adding in installation it doesn’t really seem to me that much fundraising should be needed to get a system that would accommodate a PIN. Am I missing something?

  50. Tanya September 8, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Every commercial daycare we have used has always had some method of controlling entry and recording who dropped off and who picked up our kids. This provided documentation of whether our children went to daycare that day or not (for payment documentation) and if there was ever an issue with custody, provided a way to ensure that only the proper parent could pick up the child.

    I expect locked doors and controlled access because babies and toddlers cannot talk. Some kids are like Houdini – finding every way to get out. Even with the proper child/caregiver ratios.

    I send my 4 and 6 year old outside unsupervised every chance I can, but I have never considered an unlocked, doors open daycare. Like others have said, the doors at my work are locked to control access. Why wouldn’t the same be true for a commercial daycare?

  51. nicky September 8, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Both preschools my daughter has attended have had the keypad and PIN at the door. It never occurred to me to be bothered by it, except when I forget the number. I always assumed that it was so centre operators could be certain only authorised people were entering and so that they didn’t have to have a reception desk manned full-time. I find the latter more annoying because there’s never anyone available to speak to when I have a query.

    The preschool my son attended as a four year old didn’t have it. They had a child-proof gate at the outside door and the individual classrooms were locked during session times. If you wanted to go in you had to buzz and one of the staff would open the door for you.

  52. lunzy September 8, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I don’t think this is “the norm”, but like other things we hear about, it seems like it is.

    I’ve been at three different preschools, in two states, and neither one had this PIN system. At our old school (also a co-op), I was on the board and we had a psycho safety mom. She went nuts about EVERYTHING— smoke alarms, cabinet locks, and yes, the security system, or lack there of, at our school. We finally ended up kicking her out of the program because she was so crazy and getting all the other parents worried and harrassed our landlord about these “safety issues” It was a mess.

    We decided we probably did need a better system, sign-in and out, check who was actually doing pick up, release one at a time, etc. but nothing major or that cost money. Just more time and effort. No biggie.

    As for advice: I would ask WHY. What brought this about (if it’s a co-op, there is a board)– was there an incident? is it for state, local requirements? Is this something the church wants in place? As a co-op member, you are part OWNER in the school. You have every right to question how the money is being spent. I would also ask if there was a committee set up to oversee the need/implementation. Most things are done via committee. Also offer suggestions for other solutions. Name/ID badges for the parents, sing-in/out sheets, eye-to-eye contact for release time.

    Are there other things your school needs? I would bring that up. If not, you could suggest a scholarship fund. As a co-op, your school is most likely a not-for-profit. Is this in reponse to additional funds that needs to be spent?

    Good luck!

  53. Bill September 8, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Kevin Wrote: “The preschool my wife used to work for had a pin-pad at the front door. Everyone had the same PIN. It is in a good neighborhood but near a busy intersection. It was a privately run school.

    I assume part of the reasoning was to allow employees in the building instead of giving out a bunch of keys (and having to re-key the locks when an employee is terminated).”

    So did they change the PIN when an employee was terminated? If not, this is just security theater, and no more effective than the joke we are enduring at the airport.

  54. Anette September 8, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    I was on the board of my younger son’s co-op preschool when we installed a system like that. The director wanted it b/c on average, one parental marriage a year blew up in a confrontational way and it was a way of preventing the *noncustodial parent* in such blowups from entering.
    That was also the reason we went with unique PINs, instead of using the same one for everybody.
    Whether the risk of noncustodial parental abduction is great enough to warrant these measures is a judgment call. But my point is that such systems may not be due to stranger danger paranoia.

  55. Jessica September 8, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    I don’t know if this is the norm or not, but my son’s pre-school had it. However, they didn’t treat it like a security issue, but more of a time clock at work. Check your kid in, check him out, and they would use the time to bill you appropriately (over X amount of hours meant my kid would jump from part time tuition to full time). It wasn’t used to get in and out of the school, just to check the kids in and out.

  56. Kacey September 8, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    One of the two large day care/preschools in the small city where we live has the pinpad system and one doesn’t. I do have some mixed feelings, but I like the idea that the non-pinpad place where we now have our daughter is small enough that they would recognize strangers. It’s more of a family atmosphere I guess. I certainly don’t have any real fear that anyone would come in and kidnap her, just the flash of guilty fear “what-if” that seems to be beaten into us now. I can see the preschool losing possible students because the parents want to see more security. Oh…. and there is PTA for preschool… I thought I had a few years before I had to worry about that hornet’s nest.

  57. Amanda September 8, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    In order to check my child out of Pre-K I have to enter a PIN and then scan my fingerprint to open the front door. Then I have to use that PIN again to sign her out of the computer system (where they keep up with accounting and attendance info) and THEN I have to manually sign her out on a piece of paper – in case of fire, they take the clipboard with the signatures out with them. Only then can I get her from her classroom where the assistant teacher signs her out again upon actually seeing one of her approved caregivers.This is all at a daycare center. The center also has cameras in every room and I can log on any time of day to “check in” on how my child is doing. (i’ve never taken advantage of this service.)

    After 9/11 many centers and schools in our area developed “lockdown” plans as an added measure of security and peace of mind for parents. As a Center Director I was given corporate order to purchase bullet proof glass for entry ways, PIN systems, security systems, two way radios, cameras and all sorts of things to make folks feel certain that their children were safe in our care.

  58. Kacey September 8, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Oh, and I like Lenore’s comment about the five point harnesses. They are on EVERYTHING now. Why does the high chair need a five point harness, we’re not racing it! And I don’t leave my daughter alone in it, so she’s not going to wriggle out of it without me noticing…. plus I’m not sure she could get around the tray even if she did get out of the harness somehow. Anyway, I only use the leg straps…

  59. Heather September 8, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Every preschool/daycare center I’ve ever been to in our area (typical suburban area) has pin pads for entry. The school my children attend has one, and each family chooses its own pin. While a lot of the ridiculousness in society does bother me, this doesn’t. Not sure why it bothers everyone so much. We have to remember a pin for our ATM cards. Is it really so hard to remember 3 or 4 digits? I don’t see a downside on this one. Just as we get upset about the extreme paranoia and “helicoptering” that exists in the world when it comes to children, I think we also need to be careful not to go too far in the extreme the other way by denigrating any and all safety measures….especially ones that don’t really harm anything.

  60. Heather September 8, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Oh…one more point I wanted to make….in many instances, a security system of this nature is really a legal protection for the school. It’s not an issue of being hyper-sensitive about safety, as much as it is about protecting against our society’s tendencies toward litigiousness. *IF* something bad were to happen, and there was no security system in place, you can bet the school would be sued into non-existence.

  61. dmd September 8, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    My son attended three daycare/preschools and one of them had this system. There was no reliable receptionist or standard point of entry, although it was a pain if you forgot the PIN (we all had the same PIN). I didn’t love it, but I’d say the neighborhood made it a consideration if not a necessity.

    The other daycares were on a university campus and in an upscale neighborhood. I guess both felt it was unneeded.

    Our church daycare recently added this. We have a homeless program and frequently have people in desperate situations in the building. Teacher purses have been robbed and I’ve even been startled by people in areas they shouldn’t have been in. So I think it’s been a good thing for them, in this situation.

  62. Christopher September 8, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Secured doors are standard at La Petite Academy.
    The “secured lobby” is a touted feature. You can see it in the beginning of their video at

  63. gramomster September 8, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    To clarify, the pin pad at our preschool had one number set to open the door. Nobody has a family or person-specific number. And the kids are out all. the. time. They take long walks, the playground for the school is across the street, they are big on child-led play in the natural environment. The whole K-5 is also. It’s Reggio-based education, so it’s very open and flexible. I really think the pin pad, at least for our school and the mindset of the parents and faculty there, functions to allow more freedom of access to the parents.

  64. jenjen September 8, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    DD #1’s pre school had no security. DD #2’s preschool had a PIN system. Neither set up bothered me.
    Ok, wait, the first one did have security…..about a dozen moms who waited in the lobby until class was over. I liked the PIN pad better than the looks they gave me when I dropped off and came back 2 and a half hours later. lol

  65. SKL September 8, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    My kids’ daycare/preschool has a pin pad or whatever they call it. Its security isn’t “maximum”; if you really wanted to get in, you could. You punch your code in, log in/out your kids, and then the door unlocks. I think it’s partly for them to keep track who’s present, so they can maintain the right teacher/child ratios in each room, etc. It’s a 12-hour daycare, so there is no one person who is watching to see who’s coming and going throughout the day. So, although it’s not super convenient, it doesn’t bother me.

    My 3yo has mastered the ability to log herself and her sister in each morning and unlock the door. Now if I were a paranoid parent, I’d be saying “look how easy it would be for anyone to peek through the window and sneak in on someone else’s code!”

    I also note that the back door (leading from the fenced-in play yard) is opened via a single 4-digit code, which has not been changed since my kids’ first day (summer 2009) and probably long before that. Every time a parent needs to go through that door, the staff helpfully calls out the “secret code,” so all the evil people lurking in the woods behind the fence can easily take note of it. Come to think of it, it’s a miracle they haven’t lost any children yet.

  66. Lihtox September 8, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    My daughter’s previous preschool had PIN locks on the doors, though there was only one PIN for everyone and people had no problem holding the door for others. Her current Montessori school does not have PIN locks, but security is just as tight: you have to go through the main office, etc. But my old elementary school has been making all visitors stop in the Main Office first for decades, so I’m not sure how much different this is. The PIN locks may be a cheap substitute for receptionists, in a poor economy.

  67. Kacie September 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I’ll never forget the time when I went to pick up my child at the daycare about 4 years ago, I forgot the PIN to enter the main part of the center, so I was hoping this one other parent would prop the door to let me in.. did she? No.. she immediately gave me the suspicious look, “nooo… I don’t think I’ve seen you around here. so and so is here today..let me check”.. and left me locked out. Ugh, paranoia at its finest.

  68. Allyson Tanis September 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    Our preschool had a PIN lock, as well as cameras in the parking lot, but I always assumed that this was because it was a JCC preschool, and the building had received threats in the past, and on at least one occasion, was the target of antisemitic vandalism. (Some idiot spray-painted swastikas in the parking lot.) Absent a real threat of danger, though, I think high security at preschools is just stupid.

  69. A.L. September 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    I live in Germany with my daughter, and in the town where I live, the front doors to preschools are nearly always locked — to go in or come back out, you have to push a little buzzer. On the outside, the buzzer is at nose level for a three- or four-year-old kid; on the inside, the buzzer is about six feet up, so only adults can reach it. Parents can come and go as they please, but the kids have to stay inside (or go out back if they want fresh air– the children always have their rain gear with them and are encouraged to play outside every day, rain or shine). No PINs, no receptionist. Parents do have to hand in a form stating who is permitted to pick up their child, but on that form there’s also a box that you can check saying “if someone else has to pick up my kid, I’ll let you know beforehand.” The preschool teachers and caretakers also encourage parents to get to know and support one another, even setting up times for us to just sit and chat in the cafeteria. On the whole, I’d say, community seems to trump security at most of the preschools I’ve encountered around here.

  70. Christopher Byrne September 8, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    It seems like there are several practical steps to take here:

    1. Assess the real security risks and need for such a system. Theft, as someone noted, is probably more a risk than abduction. In reality, it seems as if very few systems are required. And they are not a deterrent. As with the airports, what we have in this country is “security theater.” People buy into the illusion that some piece of technology can really thwart someone who is determined.

    2. Enroll other parents in the reality of the threat, if any. Emphasize that security systems tend to reinforce fear and are anti-community. Is that the message we want to be sending?

    3. Follow the money. Someone above mentioned finding out who got the business, but it may also make sense to find out if there is a huge insurance advantage to having such a system. Unfortunately, the insurance business can be “fashion-driven” as well rather than rational, so there may be lowered premiums if the system is installed.

    4. If you can’t get away from the system, try to humanize it. Have school administrators in the front hall to greet kids as they come and say goodbye to them as they leave. (My private school had this,and it was very personal and warm.) Engage the system only at times when it would be likely that kids, teachers and parents wouldn’t be moving around or there wouldn’t be someone by the entrance to help. Have one main door that’s open during school hours, for instance, and use the system on other doors.

    It’s a preschool and the emphasis should be on fostering community rather than a culture of fear, pending danger and suspicion. One of the key outcomes of a successful preschool experience is that children begin the socialization process, locating themselves within a broader social context than the family, which has most likely been their primary social group since birth. It’s important to look at what the larger lesson of such a system is.

    Perhaps it can’t be avoided, but it can be managed. Technology is a tool to support social structures, not to replace them. If we teach kids (and delude ourselves) to rely on tech as providing security, we undermine the ability to teach and reinforce that security, imperfect as it is, is more likely to come from a supportive structure that stresses interaction and relationship among people. Pin pads are a reality of our culture today, but let’s keep them in perspective and remember that the most important lessons we teach our kids are human ones and hopefully not fear-based.

  71. Kathrin September 8, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    In our kindergarten(in Germany) we have a PIN-system. The kindergarten is located in an industrial estate in an office building so the PIN -system is a way to keep out confused office workers who choose the wrong entrance (for some reason, a large red sign saying “Kindergarten” on on the front door doesn’t work). Also the older children (from age 3 on) are allowed to play in the corridor or in the garden on their own (without a caretaker present) so if the door wasn’t locked a child could leave without anybody noticing.

  72. Patti September 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    I’ve posted about our dealings with police after some strange incidents at our kids school. At that meeting someone asked about the new security door we were getting. It said it wasn’t a security measure and in fact made it harder to keep the building secure. Because people will inevitably let others in, the bad guys will find a way in if they really want. Meanwhile, no one will be suspicious because they’ll assume anyone in the building should be there because they must have a PIN or have been let in by someone in authority.

    I strongly advise against any security systems, especially for such a small place. Personally, I can’t see any real benefit. And then your money, which could have been spent on scholarships or new equipment, is wasted.

    And at the preschool where I work there is no security system for the school. It’s attached to a church and we do get church members who wander through the school. But we all get to know each other and then we’re all safer for it. The church itself has a security system, but it’s only turned on when absolutely no one should be in the building for any reason. Why? Because no one is there to see intruders. Eyes and ears are your best defense, if you need to say it that way.

  73. Tuppence September 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    @A.L. — I’d like to add that in Germany, the buzz locks on the doors of the preschools are there to prevent little children from running out of the front door, and possibly into the street, rather than to prevent “boogy men” from entering.

  74. Michelle September 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Maybe this is overkill for a small town. I don’t think this idea is so ridiculous for every situtation though.

    I live in Paris, where people are generally more free-range than in the US, and all of the daycares (for children 3 and under) have a touchpad to unlock the front door. In fact, almost all buildings (residential or mixed business and residential) have a touchpad system or intercom system. To me, it’s no different than having a key lock on the door.

    I don’t see why this is more invasive than a situation where the door is locked all day and you need to buzz a receptionist to open the door. At our daycare, there is no receptionist. Parents are given the freedom to come and go as they please by punching in a quick four digit code. They don’t have to interrupt someone from their work when they want to enter and the daycare doesn’t have to pay a person full-time to sit there and buzz a door open.

    Also, parents leave their strollers during the day in a storeage room on the ground floor (all the parents walk or take public transportation to bring their children) so having a lock on the door helps keep them more secure.

    I don’t see why it’s so unreasonable to keep the door locked. People who don’t have children in the daycare or who don’t do business with the daycare have no reason to be in the building. Parents most certainly do hold the door open for employees or other parents (we all know each other), and that poses no problem. These systems are also not “high tech”. It’s just a lock on one door that opens from the outside with a code rather than a metal key. If the power goes out, the door can be opened from the inside just like a normal door. You’d need a key from the outside in this case (just like a normal door).

  75. SgtMom September 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    School kids are quickly placed under LOCK DOWN whenever the slightest criminal activity takes place within a few miles of the school.

    The rest of the world blithely goes on while school children are instantly made aware of any such activity. “Mom, I was on LOCK DOWN today. How was your day?”

    I read recently where a nearby school was placed under LOCK DOWN when children’s clothes were found shredded in a park men’s room. No blood or evidence of a crime otherwise. The police even went out to question sex offenders living in the vicinity, not even knowing if it was a crime or just some clothes a kid didn’t like.

  76. Jennifer September 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    The daycare we had my son at had a PIN you used to log check in/out. I think it was more to track attendance. Because you didn’t need it to get inside. I don’t recall that door ever being locked.
    The KinderCare we looked into did have a PIN pad at the door. We didn’t really like that place, so even though the other place was waaaaay out of the way, we kept going there.
    Now he’s at a Montesorri pre-school. The front door is locked when I pick him up from after-care. I think that’s more of a -keep the kids from darting out- thing. They see me coming up the walk and bring my son to the door with all his stuff. I’ve seen them verify people they didn’t recognize, though.
    I really think most of the worry comes from domestic issues and custody. And I really don’t think they worry most about the worst case scenario. I think it’s that day to day “But it’s not HIS day!” Although I did overhear a mom going over with them that the little boy’s dad might pick him up at any time and that was fine. From what I gathered there was a custody thing, but they were on firnedly terms and she wanted them to no give him a hard time.

  77. Jennifer September 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    friendly. I can’t spell, apparently.

  78. HappyNat September 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    The first preschool we took the kids too had a finger print scan AND a ID card. Let me tell you trying to drag two kids and their lunches in the building, scanning a card, holding your finger still enough for the thing to read, and opening the door before it reset, took quite a skill set. I felt like a clown in a juggling act most mornings. Being normal nice people we would hold the door for other harried parents trying to get around in the morning. After a couple months we all received a notification that we were not to hold the door open for anyone. Am I really supposed to shut the door right in front of a Mom struggling to carry her children? According to the director, yes.

    When we were looking the new security system was the first thing the director mentioned. Not the classroom set up, not the curriculum, not the teachers, but the security. ugh.

    Their preschool now has a scanner that reads our license. However, the system is old and I’d bet it’s as much for the church security as the preschool. The church is located in the just off campus of a huge state university and some of the church ladies seem a little uneasy about the college kids. However, the preschool kids love waving to the college kids walking to class or having a cocktail outside the nearest frat house.

  79. Ash September 8, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    I dont see any much difference between this security system and any of the other restriction and walls put into norms

    What i can see here is :

    Like mentioned above, a statement that outdoors are dangerous. extremely dangerous. and need security of the kind few years ago was only seen in movies about top secret corporate safes atleast.

    Places can have charm feeling in them, one of the elements creating it are the lack of boundries / obstacles (the security system) and silence (the perfect lack of incidents). Humans in a place like that inevitably sustain this charm. An imact to it will lead to the charm vanishing, and as direct result to people becoming less positive over time.

    The security system prevents anyone without a code to enter the place, and is based on assumption that nobody will EVER have to enter it without the code. You can never know what will happen. If you assume that >50 % of the outsiders wantingto enter the school are evil than this statement justifies the security system. If I was you and >50% of theoutsiders were evil i’d get THE HECK out of that community in the first place. Who will be blocked by the system on a regular basis are the parent’s friend getting the kids to the school, the kid’s big brothers and sisters getting to school to take there / get out / visit their lil’ brothers and sisters, and many other similar events

    One entrance to the school building is a recipe for disaster. If there is a more realistic emergency such as fire or flood, you WANT strangers to enter and help rescue. The very security system is what might get in the way

    Different code for each parent and ban on holding the door open are usefull only to keep track on who gets there when – this is called surveillance. and it has its own impact on what we educate the kids to, what norms we accept (wait for it getting worse, such as using the system to detect who came late, then something further. . . ). And we allready talked about the charm element. If it was just about securing the door, everybody would have to enter the same code and it would be allowed to hold the door open for other we are familiar with.

  80. Cyndi September 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    I can’t say whether this is the norm or not, but my son’s preschool does have a similar, although cheaper, version. Whenever the kids are inside the school, they lock the door leading to the outside. When you come to pick up your child, there is a bell pull to use – with a real bell – and a teacher or aide lets you in. It’s quaint and allows some sense of security to those who need it, but is really as cheap as can be. Seriously – there is NO need for a small, church-run preschool to have an expensive security system “just in case” something would happen.

  81. Uly September 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    SKL, that’s hilarious.

    In my nieces’ school, the teachers have websites on We’re exhorted not to give out the passwords (because anybody would care…?) but I’m not breaking any vows of secrecy if I say that out of three teachers we’ve had two instances of “password” and one of “school”.

  82. susanstarr September 8, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    We had badge access at my kids’ daycare, but that had more to do with transients downtown than anything else. Folks were commonly solicited or even assaulted in the parking lot outside work where the daycare was, so security was pretty tight.

    At my daughter’s music class, though, in the middle of quite a nice neighborhood, we have a code to get into the building. Still haven’t figured out where the boogey man is around there.

  83. Dave September 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    As a pastor of a church in mid-town Manhattan NY that ran a preschool for a number of years without an incident here is my two cents. The children were in the church basement. There was a door to the street that was locked and had a door bell. Someone wanting to enter, parent or otherwise, rang the bell and an aid answered the door. The church was upstairs and the doors are always open when I am in the building. People come in and out all day for prayer and meditation. The is a door that leads to the basement that was shut but not locked. No one ever went downstairs, now children were ever in harms way and nothing has ever been taken from the building. Treat people with respect and they will act accordingly. Can something happen? Yes life is difficult at times. But most of the time the things that happen would not be prevented by seruity systems. They usually record the events to be viewed after the fact.

    What guarentee is there that the pin number will not be give to someone and shared around. A grandparent of a neighbor is asked to pick up the child. Even keys that are distributed get shared around and duplicated.

    If there has never been a problem then resist the what if reasoning.

  84. Becca September 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Is the preschool a separate building?
    Our church preschool is the same rooms they use for childcare on sundays so it would be pretty impractical to have a system like that.
    We have nothing more than a card with the approved people written on it, and even than if I tell the teacher grandpa is picking up today and at the end of the day my DD see’s him and runs over she just opens the gate and lets her out.

    During class the doors are closed and childproofed on each room. Kids bathrooms are attached to the rooms. The rooms have separate doors that open in to the fenced playground.

  85. Gareth September 8, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    I’ve got a good one for you… my son’s preschool (also in a church) had a standard old-fashioned door lockpad (the big buttons you physically push in). They changed the number every semester too.

    But despite this valiant attempt at security, they had serious security problems, and from an unexpected quarter.

    Not only toys but school equipment and children’s belongings in cubbyholes began disappearing. It turned out that an unsecured door to the church permitted people to enter the day care after services (which I must say appear to have been ineffective).

    No solution for this problem was found (the facilities shared a kitchen), and the day care actually ended up closing down.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us!

  86. Tim September 8, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    My child’s daycare has a PIN system where there is a single number that all the parents get. But people still hold the door for each other and the door isn’t locked from the inside, so I don’t get the sense that it is about either stranger danger or fear of the outside. Rather, I think it is primarily about theft (the daycare is in the upper floor of a subway station, and probably about half the parents leave strollers in the front office — there must be several thousand dollars worth of strollers and another several thousand dollars worth of computers sitting in the office) and about allowing access to parents (who are free to come and go anytime they like). There is no full time receptionist, so having a PIN is much, much easier than having to ring the doorbell and wait for either a teacher or the director of the center to find time to come let you in. I honestly don’t see why anybody is upset about this, and while in a few cases a daycare might install a PIN system or another security system out of a (massively misguided) fear of stranger danger, in most cases I suspect it is done out of much more reasonable fears of theft and of non-custodial parent abductions (which are far, far, far, far more likely than stranger abductions, and probably sometime a daycare should spend a little time worrying about).

  87. Ash September 9, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    It takes 5 minutes to bypass the code locked door without having the code, and without breaking in. I dont believe the system is there to actually prevent anything. The most it’s capable of is cool down the insurance guys

  88. A different Tim September 9, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    Although I generally agree with the overall message of this website, I honestly don’t see the big deal about this particular issue. The office building in which I work doesn’t want random people walking in and out; why should we feel like it’s overkill to want the same for a preschool or daycare? Even if you have a full-time receptionist or similar person, they can’t constantly be there to see who’s entering or leaving. So the pin-activated lock allows people who should be entering or leaving to do so without being locked in or out. If anything, this seems like more of a convenience than waiting to be buzzed in or someone having to unlock the door every time someone else arrives. I just don’t get why everyone seems so up in arms about this.

  89. DMT September 9, 2010 at 1:00 am #

    My son’s daycare/preschool operates in an abandoned elementary school; i.e. it’s a pretty large center. They don’t have the PIN system, and since they share the gymnasium with a couple of Jazzercize classes and other community events, I don’t see how it would work for them. Anytime I’ve ever gone to pick up my son, the door has never been locked, which again, since they share space with other events, wouldn’t work either.

    The only real safety feature the school seems to have is an authorized pick up/drop off list for each kid, which seems to be standard at any school.

    I don’t have an opinion about the PIN system. It’s not the worst idea on the planet, but I can also see where the money might be better spent, particularly if there ARE other things the preschool is in need of (like playground equipment.)

  90. Uly September 9, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    Tim, I think the problem – certainly as I see it – is that ALL the fundraising money (and query: who decided how the money was spent?) is going towards this. Not towards new books. Not towards crayons. Not towards refurbishing the playground. Not towards new toys, or a field trip, or a school garden, or smocks, or new scissors, or extra construction paper.

    For this to happen when – according to the OP – there’s never been a problem of unauthorized intruders AND the children are supervised by at least one adult (and up to three adults) at all times… it seems like a bit of a waste of money to me.

  91. Donna September 9, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    I’m with TIm in theory since I have no problem with a locked daycare any more than I have a problem working in a locked office or locking the door of my house at night. I have a problem with the presumtption that anything that could possibly be motivated by fear of predators must be so motivated. There are many reasons that the daycare could want this system that have nothing to do with being paranoid over child abductions (although I imagine that protecting the children is the main reason given, whether true or not, since they are using fundraising monies for this).

    I do wonder why fundraising money is going toward this instead of daycare funds? This is a standard business expense and I don’t expect for my fundraising to be used for standard operating costs; I pay tuition for those. If the school really wanted the system and couldn’t afford it from tuition, a special, targeted fundraiser should have been held rather than announcing this unusual use after the fundraising was done.

  92. amy September 9, 2010 at 2:50 am #

    Very interesting article, especially considering the fact that yesterday I noticed that the doors of my daughters pre-school were left open and that disturbed me. I agree that maybe a pin would be overdoing it, but come on, why should the doors to a pre-school be left wide open for anyone to walk in? I know this sounds paranoid to some, but as a teacher who has seen irate, sick people come into my school, I know that there needs to be a high level of security for a facility that houses small children and very busy teachers. I get it; let’s not turn into a society that is scared of it’s own shadow but come on. If this school want a pin and high security on a pre-school, go for it!! I believe that most parents would appreciate this!

  93. bequirox September 9, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    @ Elfir, same with ATM Machine.

  94. Kristen Truong September 9, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    I think it is the norm. My kids have attended 2 different preschools. One had a key fob for entry, one had a PIN pad. Even when I had my son at an at-home daycare, the daycare provider decided to put a keypad on her front door because a neighbor kid kept deciding she could wander in to play during drop-off and pick-up times. I actually think all three systems worked very well.

  95. Vanessa September 9, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    My daughter didn’t go to preschool, but at that age I would have wanted her at a place with locked doors – not because of child stealers, but because she was the sort of 2- and 3-year-old who would have dashed through the first open door she saw.

    Now, her summer day camp has locked doors, and that annoys me. She’s almost 12, for crying out loud; she’s not going to wander out into the street or leave with someone she doesn’t know (granted, there are younger kids there too, but even a 6-year-old should know not to do either of those things), so it just slows me down at pickup time. This past summer, I would text her when I got to the parking lot and tell her to get her stuff and meet me at the front, and then *she* would open the door so I could sign her out. Yep, high security.

  96. Jenne September 9, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    Both the child-cares I’ve taken my son to had locked doors; I admit the one with the PIN system was a lot easier for me.
    The one he goes to now had you ring a doorbell (which sometimes didn’t work) and they would let you in. In the mornings and afternoons if the weather was nice, they’d leave the door propped open. (Right now they’ve just changed premises and they have someone stationed at the door, to guide lost parents… security may change later.)

    I never thought about it much, really; I can see an argument for not having random people wandering in– that could be disruptive. If you’re trying to wrangle 4 infants in the infant room and the UPS guy– or the Head of the Altar Guild– comes in wanting to know where to drop this package, you’d want to strangle them!

    A simple PIN system may be in order if people currently have to drop what they are doing to let you in. Now, if access is currently *not* controlled by locked doors, etc., it’s worth trying to find out if there’s a reason they want to maintain division between the church and the pre-school. Unwanted, unassociated visitors could just be a staff hassle.

  97. shadowL September 9, 2010 at 7:22 am #


    Is THIS the norm? Only because reactionary people who think you can BUY safety say it should be.

    I dont like this.

    Communities who have active NEIGHBORHOOD watch programs have lower crime. Schools that have more ACTIVE parental involvement are healthier, more effective and safer places for whole families.

    Enlist those PTA members to HELP secure the environment if they are worried. Hell, REQUIRE every family in the school to do X number of houre as a volunteer IN SCHOOL. Then maybe those parents can spend that money on some new playground or sports equipment.

    “BE the change you want to see in the world!”
    It does not just apply to budgets and spending, it applies to EVERYTHING!

  98. Spilt Milk September 9, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    I like that my daughter’s daycare has a PIN pad security system. It’s a new thing for us, but it’s working really well. Previously, you had to wait to be buzzed in, and that meant that sometimes the carers would have to drop what they were doing (reading a story, wiping a nose, giving a cuddle) to go answer the door. Now I don’t have to wait, and they don’t have to leave their ACTUAL job to go check the door. I expect that when my daughter is at daycare the door is locked – not because I think there are predators just waiting to get in, but because it’s common sense, frankly. And because it’s a small centre there’s no receptionist – I’d prefer the workers there to feel they can concentrate on the children and not have to watch the door all day.

    There are also good reasons for having only known and ‘authorised’ people there and picking up children.

    One of the reasons that my centre now has this system is to make dealing with court-ordered custody arrangements much simpler. Staff no longer have to tell parents who have been excluded from custody rights due to violence or abuse to go away… they simply have no code and can’t get in. Far safer and easier on the staff, far more relaxed for the other parent who doesn’t have to fear that her children will be taken by their abusive father while she’s at work. I know that’s only a tiny percentage of families using daycare/preschool facilities going through this but they do exist – they exist at our centre – and I’m all for helping staff and custodial parents deal with those issues more easily and safely.

    I can understand that it would be frustrating if a great deal of funding was going towards an expensive system like this, but perhaps the letter-writer isn’t privy to the whole story? Perhaps other families have requested better security, perhaps for good reason.

  99. Con September 9, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    I left a daycare and this was one of the reasons — spending money in the wrong places, just worried about covering their legal behinds, meanwhile they were paying the teachers poorly. Oh and always doing fundraisers, meanwhile they were a for-profit franchise?? Current (non-profit Montessori) preschool has no security system. Even if they did it would not stop someone hell bent on taking a kid, so really, why bother other than to please your insurance man. Oh and they don’t do ANY fundraisers. They say “that is what you pay tuition for!”

  100. Josie September 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    I feel for these preschools – imagine if something did happen, they would be closed down. I think society has got way too much into the blame culture and look where it is getting us.. into this type of childhood for your children..

  101. jared September 9, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    +1 to all the comments suggesting “discuss the actual risks and goals” and “follow the money”, although I would combine/restate both as “assess the costs vs. the actual perceived gains.”

    The only part of the story that bothered me, really, is that 100% of the expected budget was going into this PIN lock.

    If you assess the risks and end up coming down on the “we think the door should be locked” side of things, a PIN-based lock is a pretty good alternative to making and tracking a bunch of physical keys. And if the PINs are common, and don’t change often, we’re talking minimum hassle.

    Count me among the “not outranged” on this one.

  102. JC September 10, 2010 at 5:33 am #

    I just wanted to comment again, that as for swings with five point harnesses….more power to them! Keep making it so that more kids with disabilities can use the park! Ever been to a park with a kid in a wheelchair? There is almost nothing for such a child to do. Five point harnesses on swings were designed for kids who have trunk problems (like CP) so they can participate in play with their peers. Please encourage everyone to demand at least one swing like this!! It has nothing to do with being over protective it has to do with being inclusive! A parent I know with a child who has CP can only go to parks with such a swing and it’s the only activity her child can do! Please don’t let people think they’re about being over protective, they’re about being inclusive!

    Spread the word!

  103. Margaret September 10, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    At our preschool, the doors are locked about 10 or 15 minutes after school starts. This is more to keep people from wandering around the upstairs of the building than out of concern that someone will go downstairs to the preschool. You are supposed to have your child at the school no later than 5 minute past the start time anyway, so not a big deal. Then the doors are unlocked at the end of the day for parent pick up. The teacher knew all the parents and just watched who took the kids.

    I suppose I would suggest that instead of wasting all the money and causing all the confusion, it would be better to just rotate in an extra 15 minutes of required parent helper time in the mornings and afternoons so the teacher can stand watch at the door and the other parent can help kids with coats etc (which parents should be doing anyway). And REMEMBER, just because it is suggested or made into a motion, DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO VOTE FOR IT — get the like minded parents to atttend the meeting and vote it down and ask for a recorded vote so the people who just go along with anything have to actually say that yes, they are supporting this ridiculous waste of funds.

  104. Tina September 10, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    A very big and real concern is that divorced parents don’t always share custody, but more than once someone has tried to pick up their child that they do not have custody of from school to kidnap them. This actually happened to my brother when he was 4 and his mother took him 1500 miles away and it took 2 years to find him. If she had needed to punch a code in it would have been more difficult to happen, not to say that she could have been persistent enough to get in anyway, but it would have harder to get to him. I am a big advocate of key codes, not because someone is going to walk in and shoot up the place or take a stranger’s child but to protect from people they know. Chance knew his mother and since he recognized her they never even asked her for her ID or suspected that his mommy was not okay to pick him up, but she was married to a child molester and had multiple drug convictions and had no parental rights to him.

  105. Uly September 10, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    Of course, Tina, though that is tragic there is a solution: IF you have somebody you KNOW is likely to try to snatch your kid, have a notation put on your kid’s file: ONLY release to the following people, DO NOT release to mother.

    And JC – thanks, I *knew* there was a reason for the five-point harness on the accessible swing!

    For some reason, all the kids I know think those swings are more fun than the regular ones. I don’t know why, though – maybe just the novelty factor?

  106. sylvia_rachel September 10, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    My daughter’s daycare (kids aged under 1 through 5ish) issued security cards to parents (the kind where you wave the card in the general vicinity of a little black box next to the door, a little light goes from red to green, and the door unlocks itself).

    Her daycare was located in a federal government facility, every entrance to which, as well as some interior doors, was equipped with such locks, and everyone who worked there also had to use these cards. (I think the daycare cards only opened the daycare door, but as I wasn’t interested in trying to infiltrate the National Weather Centre, I never tested this theory ;).) It wasn’t the daycare that wanted this system, it was the Environment Canada people, which makes a lot more sense.

    I’ve never heard of the PIN kind of system at any other daycare or preschool around here (Toronto), although I know most such places do have locked doors with a doorbell and sometimes a camera or intercom, or something like that. The only place I’ve seen the PIN system is at the nursing home where my FIL lived for a while, where I think they used it primarily to stop certain residents from wandering away. That was one PIN for everybody, though, not an individual one for each person.

  107. sylvia_rachel September 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    @Tina — every school and daycare I know of requires parents to fill in forms stating who is and isn’t allowed to pick up the child (and, if necessary, on what days), and asks for ID if they don’t recognize the person picking up, in order to prevent exactly this kind of awful incident. I don’t know how an expensive security system could do the job better.

  108. pentamom September 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    Okay, I gotta speak up in favor of five-point harnesses on high chairs.

    I WISH they’d had them when my kids were that age. They just would NOT sit down in their high chairs, especially the two youngest, and the younger ones each fell out a couple of times. The leg/waist straps did absolutely nothing — they could worm their way out in about 10 seconds. They were just wigglers — these were generally kids who, even as toddlers, weren’t too much of a “handful” and didn’t get into dangerous things when watched — but high chairs and shopping carts were just murder.

    Certainly they aren’t a necessity for everyone, but I wish such a thing would at least have been available back then.

  109. Bob Davis September 11, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    A few tangential topics: Five-point harnesses–these sound like the child size version of what race-car drivers use. Many years ago, our neighborhood community center had a small car show. One man brought his racer. The local photographer asked if he could move it for a better photo setup. “Oh, sure, I can do that.” And he climbed it, fastened his five-point safety harness, made sure everyone was clear and fired up the super-charged engine with a window rattling roar. He got the car into position, set the brakes, unbuckled and got out. Note that he put on the harness to move the car 20 or 30 feet! Drive like a pro! Wear your safety belt!
    Regarding entry security: Some years ago I was in Pasadena (CA) and was walking past a pre-school/day care center. What caught my attention was the firngerprint reader at the front door. James Bond comes to day care! (“I don’t care how high your clearance is, Agent 007, you’re not on the list, so permission denied. Go catch some spies.”) In the same neighborhood with the day care center was another center, this one for the “residentially challenged”, so there was some interest in keeping unrelated adults from getting in.

  110. esther September 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    This weekend in France: proposal to put chips in chlidrens school clothing. with a monitoring system.

  111. Adam Segal-Isaacson September 13, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Most daycare centers in New York City don’t have anything like this. The theoretical reason would be the fear that someone would snatch a child, but this seems particularly remote in a church situation where the parents and workers are known to each other. The large daycare/afterschool program at a local synagogue my daughter attended for years gave parents an ID card to show the security guard when entering the building, but soon enough the guard would know who was who and stop asking to see it. This seems more than adequate if they feel the need for some sort of security, and is a lot cheaper (some colored card printed with something appropriate, say Childcare Caregiver 2010, and getting a bunch laminated at Kinkos). Every year they changed the color, so we’d get a new pair (one for each parent) in the mail before term started. That way someone from a previous year couldn’t sneak in, I guess.

    The one place that I know had something like what you are talking about was a center that provided emergency backup childcare for workers at a couple of local companies. Because this was emergency backup childcare, no one was a regular, so staff and parents weren’t known to each other. They had a double door system, you had to be buzzed in, then sign in when dropping off your child and then you took your child into the center through another door you had to be buzzed through. At pickup it was the same in reverse. But this was extremely unusual, and due to the fact that parents and staff were unknown to each other. It provided the center with accountability if someone showed up and checked out your child. In your circumstance this seems completely unnecessary. If some id is necessary, it should be low-tech and simple, or it will fail more often than be useful.

  112. Jennifer Keener September 14, 2010 at 12:40 am #

    Anyone ever hear of Beslan?

    Most anti-terrorism experts believe that Beslan was a dress rehearsal for what they will do to our children here in America. They believe that the plan will include hitting multiple schools in multiple cities across America. Small cities, preferably.

    Please don’t take security at schools lightly. We are not dealing with ordinary, every-day risks. We are at war.

  113. Uly September 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    That was six years ago, Jennifer. No massive school attacks in the US yet. (And which experts are those, please? When you’re going to say something like that, it’s okay to name names.)

    Among other things, care to tell me how PIN identification is going to stop somebody determined to do massive harm? What’s going to stop them from (say) renting a plane and crashing it into a school? There’s a scenario I just made up off the top of my head. How about crashing a truck into the school? Suicide bombers at the school door?

    You cannot prevent everything, and you’d go crazy even trying. If/when people actually start routinely attacking preschoolers in the US, then we can talk. Until then, I refuse to live in fear of exaggerated claims of what MIGHT be.

  114. Uly September 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Incidentally, though we are at war, I wasn’t aware that the US was at war with Chechnya. Pretty sure that if there’s a repeat of that little incident, it’ll be with the folks they’re actually at war with – which, happily, is not us! I know, I had to double check this to confirm it myself, it’d be SO embarrassing if I declared “we’re not at war with them” when we really are, and who can keep track nowadays? But I’m guessing they can, at least well enough not to waste their energies attacking uninvolved parties.

  115. Melissa September 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Actually my son’s former school – pre-k through 5th grade – usually had a side parking lot door propped open, with the other doors being locked with an intercom/camera system. Made no sense to me and I wasn’t comfortable about it. Not only could an adult easily enter, but a child could also go out without anyone noticing.
    I brought it to the schools attention many times, it would change for a few days, but then go back to being propped open.
    In fact, went back last week for a visit, and went in the side propped door on purpose and surprised on the administrator that I was there. Hopefully proving my point again, but I doubt it.

  116. February 8, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Hiya i’m for the first-time here. I found this board and I find It certainly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give some thing back and aid others as you helped me.


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