Safety Suggestions

  • School Safety

Safety Suggestions

Everyone has a role to play in keeping schools safe

By Thomas J. Doland

Providing a safe, secure learning environment is a school division priority and community expectation. Despite recent headlines, national statistics indicate schools remain a safe place. But in an age of 24-hour news and cable TV highlighting mayhem, we must remain on guard.

In 2002, the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center studied 37 school shootings as part of a Safe School Initiative. The findings revealed most school attackers didn't just "snap," had been bullied or threatened in the past, planned their actions and left clues along the way. More than 75 percent of the time, the attacker told someone of the interest in attacking the school. In virtually every case, that person was a peer, friend, schoolmate or sibling.

The Secret Service study also revealed there is no accurate profile of a school shooter. Instead, it recommended the focus of preventative efforts be put on behaviors and communications. Detailed in the accompanying story are some of the steps our school division takes to keep students safe. As a school board, we are open to reasonable and practical suggestions for additional measures. However, protecting our children is a community responsibility. Each of us - students, teachers, parents and neighbors - plays an important role. Here are some ways to be involved:

Recognize behavioral changes
Watch for signs of change, such as a straight A student whose grades suddenly plummet or a normally vivacious community member who suddenly becomes an introvert. Even if the situation is not at a level where physical harm may be done, there likely is something that needs to be addressed. Also be aware of verbal communication (threats), grim writings (poems), online conversations and a sudden interest in weapons.

Don't be afraid to get help
If you see a change in behavioral patterns, tell a responsible adult such as a teacher, school resource officer or parent. If you really care about someone, you take care of them. Schools have staff trained to conduct threat assessments that can prevent a potentially harmful situation.

Secure weapons at home
Statistics show home is the most likely place a student will acquire a gun. Ensure that all weapons in your house are accounted for and secure. If something is amiss, notify authorities.

As a former school psychologist who helped create the school division's first crisis management plan nearly 20 years ago, I know that research shows a close relationship with a caring adult can help prevent acts of violence. Whether or not you have children in the school division, we all share a collective responsibility for protecting our community. Please stay alert and involved.