Posted By Sapp Design – Jun 19 | 2019
By Stephen Kleinsmith, Ed.D
Recent shootings on school campuses and other public venues have renewed the discussion on what is the best way for schools to protect their students and staff. Every day parents send their children to school, trusting that they will return home at the end of the school day safe and sound. Safety and security measures at school must always be something that is discussed, addressed, and acted upon in a comprehensive fashion. Community schools believe all children have the right to a safe and secure learning environment.
Research suggests that learning is enhanced when students feel safe and secure in their learning environment. This includes access to healthy foods, opportunities for physical activity, clean air to breathe, and access to nurses services, including emotional/mental health assistance from school counselors. Although schools play a critical role in helping students and families feel comfortable and safe, these issues and others are matters that must be addressed by our community working together, in a comprehensive approach to solve them and prevent future violence. Knee-jerk reactions disguised as quick fixes to the problem should be avoided.
We cannot solve this problem alone. State and federal action may be necessary to provide resources to enhance school safety, and plenty can be done with commonsense gun safety legislation without changing our current understanding of the Second Amendment.
Schools remain the safest places for children, and, according to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), today’s schools are considerably safer than they were 25 years ago. Over the last decade, the number of schools reporting an incident of violent crime fell by more than 20 percent. A recent AASA poll found that 84 percent of parents believe their child is safe in school. Yet, outside of schools each year, 3,000 children and teens are killed in violent acts involving guns and 15,000 are injured.
Schools Should Have:
- Policies and safety plans in place that assist us in addressing the various safety needs in our schools(i.e. fire and tornado drills, intruder drills, lock-down procedures, etc.)
- An active safety team comprised of area professionals that, among other activities, conducts safety audits to evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of school security plans.
- Communication plans in place to inform parents and the community about crisis situations.
- Regular training (i.e.Strategos) for faculty and staff as well as tabletop discussions for the district’s school emergency management team, including practicing for the many “new” FEMA shelters.
- Developed helpful partnerships with local law enforcement and appropriate community agencies (such as mental health) to assist each other during difficult times of crisis.
We do not want our schools to look or feel like armed fortresses. Even with the adding of additional School Resource Officers (SROs) we realize our schools, like others throughout the country, are large buildings. It is unreasonable to assume that SROs can be everywhere all the time.
The time to address safety is now, but to do so in a well-thought-out manner resulting in a comprehensive plan of action that will weather the test of time.
Posted By Sapp Design – Jun 1 | 2019
Dr. Kleinsmith recently retired from 18 highly successful years as superintendent of Nixa Public Schools. During his career in Nixa, he lead many highly successful bond issues by pioneering advanced communication strategies to keep a community engaged and informed at all times.
Dr. Kleinsmith joined Sapp Design as an educational consultant to apply a uniquely passionate and insightful perspective to the Sapp Design team. His focus is to keep the team informed and up to speed with the trends and issues currently effecting education and how that might translate into the built environment. Dr. Kleinsmith’s experience also applies districts who may need help formulating campaign and community engagement strategies that foster long term community buy-in and trust.