What constitutes a “safe school?” For administrators at the nation's education institutions, this is a question regularly under consideration — and one that can mean different things to different people.
For some, a safe school is a place where students and staff feel comfortable and unthreatened, with security precautions invisible to most. For others, it is an environment that prominently features the latest security measures, making it clear that safety is of paramount importance and bad deeds will not be tolerated. Other institutions fall somewhere in between, seamlessly incorporating programs, culture and equipment to foster a safe campus.
Even though education administrators try to create safe school environments, disturbing incidents continue to happen, such as a recent shooting by police of a middle-school student in Florida who was brandishing a pellet gun (which authorities mistakenly believed was a real weapon) and high school freshmen in Montana that brought explosives to school.
In this month's issue, a special section on school security (beginning on p. SS39) takes a look at strategies to improve the safety of students, staff and facilities, including tools available for education institutions to help create a more secure campus environment and how to balance openness with security in information technology.
School security is constantly evolving and needs to be re-examined on a regular basis. New areas of risk need to be identified and assessed. Communication among stakeholders needs to be constant. Facilities, grounds and equipment must be continually evaluated and vulnerabilities addressed.
For those schools and universities looking for more information on providing safe school environments, American School & University will be hosting a webinar on the topic in March. For more information, check out the latest issue of SchoolHouse Beat (AS&U's weekly e-newsletter) or visit www.ASUmag.com.
Number of violent victimizations per 1,000 students in 2003, down from 48 in 1992.
Number of violent crimes students ages 12 to 18 were victims of in 2003.
Number, in millions, of theft crimes at school.
Percentage of students ages 12 to 18 reporting being bullied at school.
Source: Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2005, U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics.
In last month's Editor's Focus, the 10 largest school bond issues passed in 2005 should have read:
- Los Angeles ($3.985 billion)
- West Contra Costa, Calif. ($400 million)
- Humble, Texas ($342 million)
- Newport Mesa, Calif. ($282 million)
- Blue Valley, Kan. ($279.9 million)
- Fairfax County, Va. ($246.3 million)
- Northwest, Texas ($225.5 million)
- Goose Creek, Texas ($220.5 million)
- Henrico County, Va. ($220 million)
- Birdville, Texas ($215 million, of which $67.7 million was approved)