A new reality

Our concept of what constitutes a safe school has been redefined since Sept. 11. Education administrators now find themselves facing a new reality as they tackle the already daunting task of protecting students, staff and property — and the realization that what once may have been considered adequate is not enough to address today's potential threats.

School security has taken on new urgency — and is entering uncharted territory — as the nation's schools and universities address safety in the post-Sept. 11-attack environment. And while research continues to show that education institutions remain among the safest places, recent events once again have put schools in the security spotlight — and have illustrated how vulnerable institutions of learning are to those that would like to do harm.

Schools have taken extraordinary steps over the past few years to create safe environments for students and staff. And even with the sophisticated security equipment and programs many institutions have put in place, administrators continue to do their best to ensure the systems, hardware and related equipment do little — if anything — to inhibit or detract from the learning environment.

But times have changed, and some sacrifices likely will need to be made to prepare against potential threats in today's environment. This realization is prompting many institutions to elevate security to levels previously not considered.

For example, just last month, newly appointed Philadelphia School Reform Commission Chairman James Nevels identified school security as his first priority. This admission may take some by surprise, since the Philadelphia school district — which was taken over by the state at the end of last year — suffers from a number of serious problems. But it's not academic improvement, increased funding or other issues that are at the top of the priority list — it's security. Nevels justifies his position by emphasizing that until the problem of violence in schools is brought under control, no serious learning can take place.

As education institutions prepare for the new realities of school security, this issue of American School & University includes a supplement that looks at how schools and universities are handling security in the post-Sept. 11-attack environment (after p.34). From how schools are preparing against threats, to balancing security and learning, to an array of the latest products and services to help protect your institution, the School Security supplement is sure to shine some light on a issue that impacts every education institution.


SCORECARD 33

Number of violent crimes per 1,000 students ages 12 to 18 at schools in 1999 — a decrease from 48 violent crimes per 1,000 students in 1992.

8

Percentage of students who said they were victims of any crime of violence or theft at school in 1999, down from 10 percent in 1995.

2.5 MILLION

Number of crimes students were victims of at school in 1999. In comparison, students were victims of 2.1 million crimes away from school that year.

1.7 MILLION

Number of non-fatal crimes teachers were victims of at school over the 1995-99 years.

7 TO 8

Percentage of 9th- through 12th-grade students who were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in 1999.

Source: U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.

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