Back to School: School Safety This Year

Chelsea Traina
Chelsea Traina
Supervisor of Instruction/Vice Principal; M.A. in Administration with Supervisor Certification & Principal Certification
A sign hanging on a school gate reads, “Stop! All visitors must sign in at the office.”

Why School Safety is so Significant This Year

School safety addresses physical as well as social and emotional facets of students’ school experiences. This can include but is not limited to bullying, harassment, physical and environmental safety, and mental health. This has always been an area with a high level of importance for educators.

However, in recent times, it has become an increasingly higher level of concern and importance. Ultimately, school safety is not only important for physical, mental, and social-emotional well-being of students and staff but for overall student success. When students not only feel safe physically, but emotionally and socially as well, there are correlations to increased academic achievements.

This is similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and its ideology can be applied when considering school safety as a whole. More specifically, once basic needs are being met, the higher up the hierarchy the individual can climb. In order to accomplish this, not only must needs be met but positive social and emotional components must be fostered in order to contribute to academic success.

A component of safety is physical safety of the individuals inside the building. Throughout the years, there has been an increase in reports of violence in school environments. This concern for violence has been derived from various incidents of intruders, school shootings, etc. As a result, this raises increased concern in physical safety and well-being for students and staff in school buildings.

How Schools Can Help Keep Students Safe

Strict Security Protocol – ID’s, Metal Detectors, Etc.

Physically, schools can keep students safe by implementing and maintaining strict

security protocols. This could include requiring all staff to wear identification badges and visitors to provide identification, such as a driver’s license upon arriving and entering the school premises. In addition, visitors entering the building could be required to undergo a security check which could include utilizing metal detectors and searching through any bags brought in. Visitors should also be limited to only required individuals or scheduled meetings.

Trained Security

Further, trained security should be on site and available at all times. Trained security could include police officers or other trained individuals, who could be strategically placed throughout the building and patrolling the building throughout the school day. Another aspect of the security should be maintaining all doors closed and locked throughout the school day. This would eliminate the opportunity for individuals who are not employees to enter/exit the building. Additionally, having safety plans as well as safety drills are important.

Up-To-Date Safety Protocol

Although we make efforts to prevent risks, it is important to have a plan in place should a safety-threatening situation occur, all stakeholders are clear and well-aware of protocols. Practicing safety drills is extremely important so that staff and students know exactly what to do and where to go should a safety incident occur. Practicing and knowing this information will help to keep stakeholders as safe as possible in the event of a violent occurrence. These plans/drills should be consistently revisited and revised as needed.

Mental Health Movement

Another area to consider would be training all personnel on social-emotional/mental health. This may assist in identifying and mitigating violent occurrences. Suppose staff are more trained and equipped in identifying potential areas of concern in potential students and staff. In that case, it is more likely to be mitigated prior to becoming an incident and providing the resources and skills the individual needs in order to prevent them resulting in unsafe situations.

Physically, students, staff, and all stakeholders need to feel safe. Without feeling safe physically, mentally, and social-emotionally, it becomes difficult to focus on academics and student growth/achievement.

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when students are physically safe, they can then begin to move up the hierarchy to “love and belonging”, where they can then begin to work on relationships. Social-emotionally, individuals need to be able to form and maintain healthy, positive relationships with peers and adults. Once these areas are positive, students’ academic growth independence can be fostered. Thus, in turn leading to increased learning, success, and less behavioral concerns.

An additional area to consider in regards to school safety is the community and stakeholders. Educating community members on identifying/reporting concerns could assist in preventing violent situations. If community members are aware of potential signs for concern, it is more likely that it could be reported and help prevent the unsafe situation from occurring. Providing stakeholders with mental health resources and positive outlets could also assist in preventing potentially violent situations. Addressing the social-emotional needs as well as mental health aspects are extremely significant. During the school day, students should be exposed to counselors or therapists and should be able to access them as needed. Doing so will assist in providing students with the resources and skills necessary to develop and foster a growth mindset, positive relationships, etc.

Another area to consider to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to school safety is implementing a school crisis team. This team could consist of several members including parents, community stakeholder, administrator, counselor, security, and teacher. Having this team should assist in assessing potential risks, developing a plan to mitigate them, liasioning with staff/students, and revisiting and revising as necessary.

It is also important to analyze school data which can include strengths and weaknesses of students/staff.

For instance, identify students with the most significant behavioral issues:

  • Where are they occurring?
  • When?
  • Antecedent?

Examining this specific data could help mitigate some of those behaviors. For instance, student schedules could be rearranged to avoid conflicts, providing counselor sessions, etc. analyzing data can provide information necessary to create plans to improve behaviors/concerns. To add, data for academics could be reviewed as well; struggling students could be provided with mentors. This could help alleviate frustration, struggle, lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and more.

Overall, safety is a component made up of various facets, all of which are extremely crucial in student success. Each component of safety has a significant role linked to positive academic outcomes. Thus, it is important to identify concerns/risks, create plans to prevent potential hazards and continuously revisit plans and protocols. In our ever-changing world, school safety has become an increased area of concern and is of the utmost importance in ensuring continued future success for all students.

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