Skip to main content

Are Schools Safe?

Recent tragic events have pushed conversations about school safety into the mainstream. Seemingly everyone, including the President of the United States, is weighing in with thoughts about how to make schools safer. An emotionally charged topic, it's crucial for school stakeholders to be well informed about school safety before proposing policy and procedural changes. In coming weeks, students will take part in social activism in the name of school safety and effective gun-control legislation. Interestingly, many students will be walking out of school, likely the safest place in their community, to make their point.

Contrary to social media exchanges and sensationalized news coverage, school safety in the U.S. has improved dramatically during the last twenty years.

“Children and youth are safer in school than almost anywhere else." - Dewey Cornell

School shootings and mass shootings are difficult to predict and prevent because they are statistically rare. Researcher, James Alan Fox, says, "There is not an epidemic of school shootings. More kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents." Today's students want to feel safe at school, yet they have grown up in an age of security checks and active-shooter drills. Fox believes fortifying schools provide unrealistic expectations for protection while instilling fear in students and staff. One student told me, "the danger must real if we are always preparing for it."



Procedural changes can be challenging and disruptive to other school-based processes. A strategy employed by my Change.School brethren is to initiate systematic changes by discussing beliefs, reviewing contextual factors, and examining current practices. This process allows schools to collectively appraise school safety and implement changes based on informed, mutually agreed upon, decisions.
  • What do school stakeholders believe about school safety? Do students and staff think they're safe at school? Is there an appropriate balance between protective measures and a welcoming school climate? What purposes does the school serve its community? To what extent should safety prioritized.
  • What are the environmental and social contexts impacting school safety? Are there circumstances placing the school at risk for violence? Is the availability of social services to students affected by the size of the school? Is there programming in place which encourages respect, responsibility, and interdependence?
  • Articulating beliefs and examining contexts will identify current practices effectively supporting school safety. Likewise, inadequate methods can be scrapped in favor of strategies backed by new knowledge. Most importantly, modernized practices are based on the transparent articulation of beliefs and an analysis of contextual evidence.
Reviewing research and scrutinizing safety practices does not mean we are trivializing tragedy, nor are we dissuading student activism. When leaders gather in meeting rooms, and students walk out of their schools, let's make sure conversations and actions have intentions based on fact, not sensationalized news or misguided social media posts. Effective change becomes possible when diverse perspectives are respected during our quest for truth and reassurance. 

Are schools safe? Statistically speaking, schools are very safe, and in the context of other mortality studies, schools have become better protected while other locations have become more dangerous. Maybe the better question is, "Do students and staff feel safe at school?" Be careful what you wish for if school policy and procedures are decided by outsiders. The people best qualified to make their school feel safer are the students, teachers, and administrators within the building. My recommendation for March 14th and beyond is for students to remain at school and engage in conversations about personal wellness, inclusivity, interdependence, and school climate. As is often the case, "the solution lies in the problem."

Related Reading: Student Protests: Questions and Answers, Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School, March 11, 2018.

In Broward County, Student Voice Impacts the Classroom and Beyond, Getting Smart, Erin Gohl, March 13, 2018.

References:

"How Safe Are Our Schools?: Professor Dewey Cornell Traces the Roots of Violence." Virginia Magazine. http://uvamagazine.org/articles/how_safe_are_our_schools.

"PBL Blog." Reflections on School Shootings & PBL, and the Size of High Schools | Blog | Project-Based Learning | BIE. http://www.bie.org/blog/reflections_on_school_shootings_pbl_the_size_of_high_schools?platform=hootsuite.

"Schools Are Safer than They Were in the 90s, and School Shootings Are Not More Common than They Used to Be, Researchers, Say." News Northeastern Schools Are Safer than They Were in the 90s and School Shootings Are Not More Common than They Used to Be Researchers Say Comments. http://news.northeastern.edu/2018/02/schools-are-still-one-of-the-safest-places-for-children-researcher-says/.

Vosoughi, Soroush, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. "The Spread of True and False News Online." Science. March 09, 2018. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146.full.

photo credit: Freaktography Abandoned Prison Upper Levels Urban Exploring via photopin (license)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Five Reasons Why Schoology Rocks!"

Networking at IETC last week provided me validation in my choice for best learning management system, Schoology. Having used Moodle, Edmodo, Canvas, and Blackboard, I can tell you that these are all terrific products for digital instruction. However, for the past several months, I felt that Schoology was a better choice than these previously mentioned products. Many times, asking the right questions is a precursor to making sound decisions. Here's an article that serves as a guide to asking the right questions when choosing a learning management system:


10 Questions Everyone Should Ask When Choosing an LMS
Here are five reasons why Schoology remains my #1 choice for a classroom LMS: Full-featured classroom organization tools, a collaborative learning place for teachers and students, device-independent applications, Schoology API allows the program to play nicely with others, and the basic level instructional components are, and will always be, FREE.

1.  Schoology's classroom mana…

Good People; The Product of Good Schools

The nightly business reports frequently mention inputs and outputs. Gross National Product (GNP) is a widely recognized leading economic indicator. Widgets aside, what is the product of schools? Some of you want to jump on a table and scream, "children are not products!" Let this breathe a bit as you trudge forward.



In his recent post, Mark Heintz eloquently shares his ruminations to a question being kicked around in our Modern Learners community, "What do we want our children to be?" Credit Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and Chad Ratliff, co-authors of "Timeless Learning; How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-based Thinking Change Schools," for sparking this conversation theme. Timeless Learning provides interesting provocations, inspiring experiences, and compelling rationale for school change.

Like others, my school's leadership team is engaging in discussions about reimagining school to meet the needs of our modern learners. These conversations are seldom e…

My One Word for 2018 is Wisdom

Wisdom, according to Dictionary.com, is "the quality or state of being wise;
knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action;
sagacity, discernment, or insight."


"Any fool can know. The point is to understand."
This quote, often incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, provides an illustration of the value of understanding over knowledge. A simple search reveals this quote can be linked to the writing of mathematician, George Finlay Simmons


Narrowing my thinking to one word is an interesting challenge. I have gained a greater appreciation for words and how the combination of words can convey meaning beyond definitions, beyond knowledge.

Where are the resources for knowledge in a modern world? We purchased an Amazon Echo as a gift for my parents. "It's such a smart and funny device," says my mom. Alexa has a seemingly unlimited access to information, music, and jokes, but does she understand? Can robots and computers obtain wis…