Updated: Mar 17
If you watch the news each day, you have been noticing some disturbing trends. Not just over the past decade, but specifically over the last year.
Violence is rising in our communities and school environments almost always become a microcosm of what we see in our communities as a whole.
The pandemic has been a mental health challenge across the board in the United States. Financial hardships, illness, politics, all of it. People are hurting with little outlet to heal. It would be naïve at best to assume our children will be shielded from this. They are not. Our children are hurting in ways that we cannot possibly understand because, as children and adolescents, none of us was ever thrust into the unknown world of lockdowns, learning loss, restrictions, and emergency public health measures . We cannot understand how this effects the mental health of our youth, because we have never experienced anything like this pandemic and its handling, ever. Unfortunately, for many, violence is fast becoming an expression of the frustrations that we have been through and are still going through.
Teachers are reporting breaking up fights in schools and are raising concerns about their own safety. Students have been caught with guns or other weapons on campuses in several high-profile incidents. And school shootings in 2021, though still very rare, are on track to surpass their pre-pandemic high.
Even before COVID, the trend was towards more violence in schools. The number of violent incidents on public school campuses increased a staggering 185 percent from 2016 to 2019, according to a recent study. But following months of lockdowns, closed schools, and virtual learning, this trend accelerated as kids returned to school.
For example, the National Association of School Resource Officers reported a tripling of gun-related incidents in schools between August and October 2021, compared to the same three-month period in 2019. One Florida principal, at a recent national school safety conference, summed up what many schools are experiencing: “Some students, who had no history of issues, suddenly started aggressive behavior when our high school resumed last August.”
Perhaps this should be no surprise. With students returning to school after a year of missed socialization, and the emotional damage it wrought, it seems only natural that student-on-student violence would increase.
We owe it to our children to keep them safe in school. They deserve to feel and BE safe and its our responsibility to provide that environment for them. Its not only our moral obligation, it is quickly becoming a legal liability if we do not.
The Actual Price Tag of Procrastination
The ultimate price of safety issues in schools is injury and loss of life. This is the heart-breaking reality that we see play out repeatedly and at an increasing rate. When this happens, we are reminded about our desire for change and about how precious life is. When there are victims, there is anguish. Where there is anguish, the financial implications eventually also become a reality.
For example, in late October 2021, a $25 million settlement was reached between the Broward County School Board and 52 victims of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida. In addition, the families also reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the federal government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman even though it had received information he intended to attack. The settlement’s details are confidential, but a person familiar with the deal said the government will pay the families $127.5 million overall.
In a similar move earlier in 2021, the Justice Department announced an $88 million settlement with the survivors and families of those killed during a mass shooting at a South Carolina church in 2015. That lawsuit accused the FBI of failing to prevent the shooter — a self-proclaimed white supremacist who hoped to start a “race war” — from purchasing a gun to carry out the attack.
Even more recently, with the deadly shooting in Oxford Michigan, a Michigan prosecutor is criticizing school officials for how the situation was handled. The school is now under investigation and charges may still be filed holding the school responsible. The superintendent of Oxford Schools has requested an independent review of the shooting as well.
There are many more examples of litigation being brought against organizations and schools ultimately holding safety officials accountable for losses when violence strikes. More and more, violent events (like active shooters incidents) are becoming foreseeable in the eyes of the courts.
What Schools Must Do
While a school cannot predict or stop all violence, there are things that schools can do to:
Identify potentially violent behavior.
Intervene before violence strikes.
Mitigate loss if a violent event occurs.
While this seems like a simplified explanation, in reality it can be daunting for a school district to approach. Why? Because school safety is an ecosystem, a culture, a way of operating that involves a holistic approach to how districts run. The school safety ecosystem is an intricate puzzle of need.....no singular piece of that puzzle will help in the absence of the other pieces. All parties and affected institutions must participate with the same objective goals in mind. Parties include:
School resource officers,
School mental heath professionals,
Local law enforcement,
and parents/community members.
This is what the NASCPC does best. We understand the holistic approach necessary to make schools as safe as humanly possible. We approach each school independently based upon the logistics of that particular location because every school and its dynamics are different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are always solutions to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Members, we encourage individuals to reach out to us with any questions you may have about your school safety platform (member login required). As a member you will have access to a variety of tools to help you make better decisions for your school and we are always here to answer any questions that may come up as you embark on your journey to make your school the safest it can be.
Additionally, should your school need help with its entire operational plan, we are happy to work with you. Feel free to have your school administrators reach out to us for a free evaluation and consultation. Of note, if you or someone else at your school is a NASCPC member, your school will be offered deep discounts on holistic operational consulting plans.
#WeAreSchoolSafety and we are here for you. Please reach out today.