A Team Effort

Sept. 1, 1997
There is no single cause of school safety problems, whether it be illegal drug sales, possession and use of weapons, physical attacks or theft. Consequently,

There is no single cause of school safety problems, whether it be illegal drug sales, possession and use of weapons, physical attacks or theft. Consequently, no single solution exists. Failure to understand the comprehensive nature of violence often leads to corrective measures that attack only one aspect of school violence and do not stop crime from filtering into schools.

Even when infractions appear slight, corrective measures must be implemented to prevent further erosion of a safe learning environment. It is not enough for administrators to identify and remove students who contribute to fear,perception of fear or criminal activity. Administrators must ensure safe schools. This is accomplished by developing and enforcing school policies that support equitable suspension or expulsion of students who commit crimes or violations of school policy.

A school safety plan must be comprehensive and include staff, students, parents and community groups. Development of a plan is a long process requiring input from various people who understand group dynamics and know how to build consensus to formulate, prioritize and implement corrective strategies.

Once a plan is developed and accepted, it must be maintained by securing the necessary resources. The school principal is the catalyst to educate each group regarding individual school safety responsibilities. Consequently, the soundest approach to school violence management is based upon collective partnering relationships.

One approach-a holistic method for safe schools-begins with a survey of staff and student safety issues, assessing incidents of violence in the school, on school property and in community corridors traveled by students and staff. In addition, strategies and tactics are investigated to help manage school violence, including building partnerships, school safety planning, theft prevention, and drug and weapon control.

If the situation warrants it, consider using metal detectors to keep guns and other metal weapons out of schools. It is best to use a combination of handheld and arching stationary units. Hand-held units are portable and can be used to search for metal weapons any time in any location. The stationary, or walkthrough, arch can be moved from one location to another, whether within the same school or a different facility. Another advantage is that the walkthrough arch provides a quick, instant search of large groups of students.

While parents, students and staff may welcome the extra protection of these devices, metal-detector weapon control is not a panacea. Alone, it will not end weapons being brought into schools. Success can be maintained and heightened only when metal-detection strategies are part of a comprehensive school-safety plan.

Putting it on paper No standard formula can guarantee safe schools. However, an inclusive planning group involving the principal, teachers, other staff, students, parents, police and community members, supported by legal considerations, will help reduce school violence.

All group members should agree upon the final written document, which identifies, prioritizes and coordinates safe school planning strategies. Besides identifying planning team members, assessing violent crime and policy violations, and surveying staff and students, a school safety plan should include:

-Incident tracking and recordkeeping. -Gang awareness. -Attendance and truancy. -School supervision. -Building security. -Parent participation. -Violence prevention strategies. -School security. -Budget and finance. -Employee screening and selection. -Drug prevention. -Law enforcement relations. -Gun and weapon control. -Theft control. -Juvenile justice system partnership. -Legislation. -School policy development. -Community participation. -Student input. -Crisis and emergency situations. -Curricula development. -Evaluation.

These areas should be enhanced based upon local need.

An important thing to remember is that the planning process is continuous; it does not end with the formulation of a school safety plan. Schools must reevaluate the formal plan at least once a year, addressing any new or changing situations.

Dean, a criminal justice and school safety consultant with more than 30 years of law-enforcement experience, was director, office of security operations, the School District of Philadelphia, and executive administrator for nationwide training and support services for the Police Foundation. Leaming, a program manager for technology assessments at the National Institute of Justice, was director of research and policy analysis for the Police Foundation.

Fire extinguishers are vital to any school security and safety program. However, it often is confusing as to the type of fire extinguishers that can be used safely on certain kinds of fires. Below are the types of extinguishers available and the types of fires they can be used on:

-Class A extinguishers-the most common fire with combustibles, such as wood, cloth and paper. -Class B extinguishers-for flammable liquids, gases and grease. -Class C extinguishers-for use on electrical fires. -Class D extinguishers-for use on fires created by flammable metals, such as magnesium, titanium and sodium. -Class A, B, C extinguishers-made to handle all A- , B- and C- class fires, but not class D.

Never use an extinguisher inappropriately. They are designed to extinguish only certain types of fires and to keep you safe while doing so.

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