What’s being done to improve school safety? There’s much discussion about school violence and “core values,” and dealing with horrific events once they occur. Suggested solutions are often controversial.
Reducing class size isn’t mentioned. Yet how teachers carry out school safety training would seem to be contingent on manageable class sizes. By supporting teachers as they work with students, students get the attention they deserve.
It is warranted that students should get at least one small class that meets everyday, with a dedicated teacher. There they should be able to discuss difficulties and feelings and get to know other students. This could be called a student support group. There might not be enough teachers for this. Administrators, school staff, and parents could also receive training and work with these small groups.
One point that is repeatedly mentioned and which makes sense, is that every school district must assess their unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to school safety. But certain safety standards might also be appropriate for all schools.
The National Institute of Justice provides school safety research grants to a variety of universities and organizations. Here’s the link. It is interesting to pick out the school safety projects and the funding allocations. HERE.
Here’s a review of some solutions that have been proposed, or which are actually occurring. Probably none of these will be surprising, but I like lists. If I’ve left something out let me know and I will add it. The items with an asterisk would seem to be especially helpful, but are mentioned less frequently.
Arming Teachers: The idea of gun toting teachers is repulsive to many Americans. But this idea is still pushed. Most recently, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said states should decide if they want to pursue this for their schools, but they can get federal funding to do so. Some states are onboard. Rural areas might be more inclined to include such an approach claiming that police response might take too long.
Law-Enforcement: Schools work with law enforcement to coordinate their action plans and hire more resource officers to patrol schools.
Surveillance. Some school districts consider one or a mix of barricades, bulletproof glass, metal detectors, door locks, safe rooms, armed resource officers and more armed law enforcement. They curtail campus visits.
School Threat Assessments: Outside safety experts consider ways school organization and the facility can be made more safe. There seem to be many outside groups that will contract with a school for this service.
Behavioral Intervention. Teachers or parents zero in on problematic behavior and work out an IEP or 504 Plan to assist the student in changing the behavior. Some students are screened and placed in classrooms or schools for students experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties.
School Panic Buttons: An app on your phone that calls 911.
Anti-Bullying Programs: While anti-bullying programs may make students more aware of bullying, these programs have mixed reviews.
Anti-Cyberbullying Initiatives: Bullying on social media is problematic even at the elementary school level. It’s difficult because cyberbullying can be done any time or place. The best schools can do is work with students to help them understand the dangers of bullying and how to report and dismiss bullying online, or in person.
Technology: There are school safety software programs aplenty. These programs organize information for emergencies and attempt to outline building safety.
Staff Training: Outside groups, usually nonprofits or for-profits, come into a school and instruct staff how to address discipline and safety.
Community Help: It’s always nice when a community gets behind their public school. Caring about students and finding ways to support them brings a community together. But community members usually do not get to know students like teachers and other students.
Anonymous Reports: This includes helping students, parents, teachers, and others anonymously report threats students might make using hotlines, social media, mobile telephone applications
Training: There’s training for parents, teachers, students, school staff, and law enforcement. Like community help, it is hoped that adults will be able to identify the emotional and behavioral difficulties found in children. It can’t hurt to have workshops that help better understand students.
Active Shooter Drills. Drills to prepare for shooters have been done since Columbine. Controversy surrounds weighing whether the drills are worth the anxiety they cause students, especially younger children.
Social Emotional Learning Assessments: It is nice to help students get along with each other and to address there social emotional needs. But massively screening every student online with personal questions creates privacy concerns. It’s difficult to determine if there’s good reason behind so much data. The assessments seem questionable. Will students with real difficulties be overlooked?
Mental Health: Different mental health initiatives are mentioned, mostly paying closer attention to students.
Stricter Discipline: Zero tolerance rules have ruled in many public schools for years. But harsher discipline of children raises abuse concerns. Some school districts have been more punitive than necessary. Fears are that it could lead to the school to prison pipeline.
Rethinking Discipline: Retro Report describes the past era of zero tolerance. Many are rethinking the harshness that has occurred due to harsh rules that seem to be nebulous based on the school district a student lives.
In the 1980s and 1990s, as crime rates started to rise, schools across the country began to crack down on violence, disorder and weapons in the classroom. A new “get tough” approach to discipline took hold that increasingly relied on swift punishment, suspensions and arrests.
By the mid-90s, that approach to discipline had been given a name: “zero tolerance.” In 1994, the federal government called for zero tolerance, or mandatory one-year expulsion, for anyone who brought a gun to school. But many schools went even further, using a zero tolerance approach for other weapons, drugs and all sorts of misbehavior. By 2011, more than three million students a year were being suspended and nearly 250,000 were being referred to the police by their schools. And those harsh punishments were much more likely to impact minorities and students with disabilities.
*Counselors: Most schools need more counselors for addressing student needs. Counselors are often relegated to organizing and administering standardized testing. In high school they help students apply to college.
*Nurses: School nurses can help identify students who exhibit troubling behavior or mental health difficulties.
*School Psychologists: School districts still work around waiting lists to get students tested and into special programs as needed.
*Special Education: Special education teachers teach students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
*School Volunteer Tutoring: One way the community can help, is with volunteer tutoring programs. Businesses might send volunteer tutors to work one-on-one with students. Sometimes grandparents can be enlisted to work with students.