Safe Passage

Schools focus a great deal of energy, resources and money to provide safe learning environments. Yet, in spite of this, almost half of teenagers in the nation's high schools feel unsafe, according to a recent survey. This troubling find no doubt will have administrators re-evaluating the methods, programs and systems used to secure their facilities — and how the issue of safety is communicated to the school community.

“The High School Survey of Student Engagement,” conducted by Indiana University and based on results from about 81,000 students, finds that just 55 percent of respondents feel safe at school. In addition, students in urban environments are more likely to feel unsafe than those attending school in other areas.

When it comes to feeling safe, significant differences exist among racial and ethnic groups. According to the survey, just 41 percent of blacks feel safe in school, followed by 51 percent of Latinos and 56 percent of Asians. White students feel the safest at 60 percent.

Of course, we all know that a student who is scared or apprehensive about coming to school is less likely to learn. Yet, national studies continue to show that schools are among the safest places for children and young adults. So why do the majority of high school students feel unsafe?

Access-control systems, closed-circuit television, security personnel, call boxes, and other hardware and systems are physical reminders of a commitment to security. Intervention programs, support groups, hotlines and other programs provide vital outlets to foster a safe environment. However, if the issue of security is not communicated effectively to students, staff, parents and the community, all the hardware and human efforts may be overlooked, leaving users feeling unsafe in their own schools.

In recognition of security's vital role in providing environments conducive to learning, a special section on the topic can be found beginning on p. 47. In it, you will find valuable information on how education institutions can better provide safe environments for students, staff and facilities.

A safe school environment cannot be an assumption. It must be a top priority — continually improved upon and communicated.

SCORECARD

Percentage of students that feel safe in the nation's high schools.

Percentage of black students that feel safe in school.

Percentage of Latino students that feel safe in school.

Percentage of Asian students that feel safe in school.

Percentage of white students that feel safe in school.

Source: “The High School Survey of Student Engagement,” Indiana University.

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