If you have school aged children in your life, you are fairly comfortable with multiple grade cycles each school year. Standardized testing, projects, classwork, homework, and a push for kids to consistently do better. Many kids push hard to achieve good grades, and many do not. Many parents do all they can to help their kids achieve their best in school, many parents do not. Such is the cycle of society, rinse and repeat.
The same can be said when it comes to school safety standards. Many schools go out of their way to provide the safest and most nurturing environments in our schools, and many do not. There are a multitude of reasons for this, not the least of which are funding deficiencies, but the truth is quite clear. As safety professionals, educators, parents, and students...we must unite to make school safety a priority for all schools.
Community Violence on the Rise
There isn't enough that can be said about the societal upheaval we are in right now in the United States. As a whole, communities have never been more divided. Divided by politics, health decisions, income disparities, discrimination, perceived micro-aggressions, inflation, censorship, and more...America is at a boiling point. As a member of society, unless you are blanketed in wealth and privilege, you have been affected. Every community in every corner of the world has been affected, and the consequences are quickly coming home to roost. Acts of violence are up across the board. As these consequences are felt in our communities, they ultimately are felt in our schools.
Even prior to the pandemic and subsequent societal fall out, studies have shown a relation between our youth experiencing violence and their behavior trends thereafter. A 2013 study noted that exposure to violent home and community environments, contribute to both reduced academic progress and increased disruptive or unfocused classroom behavior for children, adolescents, and teenagers. Further it notes that youth exposure to violence may compromise healthy social relationships and academic potential and may also increase functioning impairment. Of significant importance is the finding that schools in neighborhoods with higher rates of violence are more likely to experience similarly violent incidents in school as well.
Related: School Violence: A National Glimpse
Basic Levels of School Safety Standards
So where does YOUR school fall on the spectrum for school safety? What grade would your local schools get? We break down levels of safety standards into three buckets.
SUBSTANTIAL - The school has established school safety standards, policies, and training that are integrated into the school district’s culture and supports a safe and secure educational environment for students to learn and thrive in. Think of this as a Grade A or B standard.
SATISFACTORY - The school has established school safety standards that meet minimal guidelines or basic compliance regulations and requirements. This would be a Grade C standard.
UNSATISFACTORY - There are little to no school safety standards in place. These are the Grade D and F standards.
There is an overwhelming need for collaborative planning between caregivers and
school administrators to infuse stability, nurturing, and the utilization of community
resources (e.g., mental health) into the our schools. Only schools who consider the entire ecosystem of safety can achieve an "A Grade". Those schools are the ones that can have a positive real impact on our students futures.
We so often see schools making efforts to implement only physical safety measures in an effort to keep kids safe. We must stress that putting in physical measures such metal detectors or access control systems IS a great idea, but on its face those measures are only a piece of the ecosystem puzzle. A school safety plan is akin to a machine with lots of moving parts. All the pieces must be present for the other pieces to function effectively.
The goal of schools must be to provide students with an ENVIRONMENT of safety, not just a safe building. We must wrap our figurative arms around our children and provide the stability of safe haven so that they may relax, learn, grow, and thrive. Everyone has a part to play in school safety and the NASCPC is committed to educating schools on how to most effectively achieve those goals at every school across the nation. We can help your school too.
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