Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Teachers Can Help Make Their School's Security a Priority

Without invoking sensationalism, you must admit that media coverage of school shootings can bring a chill to the bone. Aside from being chilling for the obvious reasons, is it also because as a teacher, you worry if such a thing could ever happen at your school. Thankfully, shootings occur at a tiny percentage of schools. However bullying, fights and theft are extremely widespread and are nothing new to many teachers’ classrooms and school yards.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report, 2008, 86% of public schools reported one or more serious violent incidents, thefts, or other crimes, amounting to an estimated 2.2 million crimes. That number is astounding! This means that 86% of schools are seeing distractions to learning, student and staff unease, and inappropriate behaviors that detract from the process of learning. These are only a few reasons why teachers, among other school administrators, are becoming more concerned – out of necessity – about security risks.

The foundation of a safe learning environment is where students feel safe and can focus on lessons and assignments instead of worrying about if they will be robbed or bullied after class. While teachers may not be responsible for designing an overall security program for their school, they can still make a huge difference by proactively getting involved. Below are a few simple steps to help teachers create a safe environment by supporting administrators and School Resource Officers (SROs) in their efforts:
  1. Have an anonymous reporting program - Give students a way to report things they see, hear and are afraid of without drawing attention to themselves. Given the popularity of cell phones among students of all ages, some local law enforcement departments have seen success with better crime reporting by allowing young people to anonymously text tips to their hotline. With an appropriate and well-defined cell phone usage policy in place, phones can be used to help create a safer learning environment.
  2. Address issues - Schools that address issues swiftly and consistently create an expectation among the student body that inappropriate behaviors will not be tolerated.
  3. Minimize opportunities for violence – Become involved in the use of tools like access control, video and physical presence to monitor potentially volatile areas (underneath stairwells, blind spots/corners in the school, restrooms) and make them less attractive spots for violent activities. For example, teachers at your school responsible for monitoring large rooms – i.e. cafeteria, gymnasiums, libraries - should also have access to live video surveillance during certain parts of the day.
  4. Take action - When teachers get involved by sharing information with SROs, helping with natural surveillance, immediately addressing or reporting issues when they see them, and generally being aware and proactive, students understand that security is a priority at the school.
Small steps can make a big difference when it comes to security. From a personal safety perspective, it is well worth some thought and effort. I invite you to visit the Wren Education + Network Video blog for more recommendations and ongoing trends in school security. A school with fewer security problems yields a richer, more focused learning environment.

This is a guest post from Bret Rachlin of Wren Education + Network Video blog, who focuses on school safety in depth.  Wren Solutions, the security company that hosts the blog, has a lot of quality tips and information for teachers and administrators interested in school security.  Also, the company is sponsoring a scholarship for School Resource Officers to help further their education.  Read more about the scholarship here.