Developing and Maintaining Safe Schools

There is no greater challenge that exists today than creating safe schools. It is difficult for children to learn in an environment that is unsafe and when they feel at risk. It is hard to keep staff on task when they fear for their own safety.One out of twelve students who stay away from school do so because of fear.In an ideal world, you would like to prevent all school crime and ensure the safety of students and each staff member.

There are so many things outside the control of the school administrator that such a taskisalmostimpossible.Topredictthepotentially disruptive behavior of students, a staff member, or the intruder who comes to your campus is unrealistic, but being armed with the knowledge that this could happen to you could can lead to do several things to prepare for a crisis, avoid a crisis, and preclude successive crises.Restoring our schools to tranquil and safe places of learning requires a great commitment.

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It involves placing school safety at the topoftheeducationalagenda.Withoutsafeschools, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn.School administrators have a host of opportunities and strategies that can be implemented to make a difference.The difficulty often is in effectively analyzing the problem, and then deciding what can be done about it.A safe school is in place when students can learn and teachers can teach in a warm and welcoming environment free of intimidation and fear. It is a setting where the educational climate fosters a spirit of acceptance and care for every child; where behavior expectations are clearly communicated, consistently enforced and fairly applied.A safe school is a function of community will, priorities and interests.It requires partnerships and cooperation.The components and people involved are limited only by the imagination, creativity, energy, and commitment ofthelocalcommunity.Veryimportantpeopleinclude students, educators,parents,lawenforcers,judges, probation directors, mental health leaders, and other youth serving professionals.Unlimited options and potential exist for safe school planning.It is about the art of the possible.It is about creativity.It requires only the ability to get started.It is not limited by special restraints or a set of guidelines.Each community has the opportunity to shape the type of school climate it wants to create.The key questions we must ask are “What is it we want to accomplish?” and “How do we want to make it happen?” The safety of our children is crucial.It is so crucial that it is everyone’s problem:school leaders, parents, and the broader community.

A needs assessment is simply a formative evaluation.It helps a school determineitsneedsregardingviolence reduction and prevention.Asking several questions first might help a school develop a more effective long term strategy.There also needs to be set some measurable goals. Effective schools create a violence prevention and response plan and form a team that can ensure it is implemented.They use approaches and strategies based on research about what works. A sound violence prevention and response plan reflects the common and the unique needs of educators, students, families, and the greater community.The plan outlines how all individuals in the school community, which includes administrators, teachers, parents, students, bus drivers, support staff, will be prepared to handle a crisis situation, and what they will need to do.The plan also details how school and community resources can be used to create safe environments. An effective written plans includes:* Descriptions of the early warning signs of potentially violent behavior and procedures for identifying children * Descriptions of effective prevention practices the school community has undertaken to build a foundationthat is responsive to all children and enhances theeffectiveness of interventions.

* Descriptions of intervention strategies the schoolcommunity can use to help troubled children. Theseinclude early interventions for students who are at riskof behavioral problems, and more intensive, individualized interventions and resources for studentswith severe behavioral problems or mental health needs.

* A crisis intervention plan that includes immediateresponses for imminent warning signs and violent behavior, as well as a contingency plan to be used in The plan must be consistent with federal, state, andlocal laws.It also should have the support of families and the local school board.The plan will prove most meaningful when the entire school community is involved in developing and implementing the plan.Everyone should be provided with relevant training and support on a regular basis.It can be helpful to establish a school based team to oversee the preparation and implementation of the safe school plan.This does not need to be a new team, but a designated core group should be entrusted with this important responsibility.

Everyschoolshouldconductanannualschoolsafety assessment.Aschoolsafetyassessmentisastrategic evaluation and planning tool to use to determine the extent of a safe school plan, and is a comprehensive review and evaluation oftheeducationalprogramofaschoolor district.Various issues are examined to ascertain how they affect school climate, school attendance, personal safety, and overall school security. It also may focus on a much broader or comprehensive area of school safety or other school climate issues. The safety assessment includes:* A review of student discipline problems, policies,procedures, and practices at both the school site and * An evaluation of the school safety plan and the * An assessment of the school/law enforcement partnershipand the relationship with local community leaders and * A review of crime prevention efforts regarding* A review of employee recruiting, selection,supervision, and training criteria pertaining to school* An assessment of student activities and extracurricular* A review of the safe school plan* An assessment of the educational plan and its support for a positive school climateIn preparation for the assessment process, several resources should be gathered for the assessment team to review.These materials include:* All security and safety related policies of the * A floor plan of school buildings;* A site plan showing campus boundaries and access * School crime reports for the previous year;* Known safety and security concerns of the staff and* The school’s file of previous news coverage;* The school’s log of police calls for service;* Student handbook and teacher handbook’* PTA newsletters that address safety and security;* Labor contracts for classified and certified staffIn addition, the school could develop their own evaluation tool for their annual site review of the safe school plan, or use a research based plan that would work for the school or district.

Crisis involving sudden violence in schools are traumatic in large measure because they are rare and unexpected. Everyone is touched in some way.In the wake of such a crisis, members of the school community are asked, and ask themselves, what could have been done to prevent it.School can meet the challenge of reducing violence.The school community can be supported through:* School board policies that address both prevention andintervention for troubled children and youth.

* Schoolwide violence prevention and response plans thatinclude the entire school community in theirdevelopment and implementation.

* Training in recognizing the early warning signs of* Procedures that encourage staff, parents, and studentsto share their concerns about children who exhibit early warning signs.

* Procedures for responding quickly to concerns about* Adequate support in getting help for troubled children.

Everyonewhocaresaboutchildrencaresaboutending violence.It is time to break the silence that too often characterizes even the most well meaning school communities. Research and expert based information is available for school communities to use in developing and strengthening programs that can prevent crises.School safety is everyone’s job. Teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and students all must commit to meeting the challenge of setting a safe school environment plan.

In today’s society, safety is a very important issue. Once upon becoming an administrator, this would be one of the main issues on my list.I would work to have a safe school environment plan in effect.I would follow the outlined guide as closely as possible in order to implement a safe school environment plan in my school and district.

Bibliography:BIBLIOGRAPHYDwyer, K.; Osher, D.; and Warger, C. Early Warning, Timely Response: A guide to safe schools.

www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/OSEP/earlywrn.htmlWashington D.C.: U.S. Department of EducationFlannery, Daniel J. Improving School Violence PreventionPrograms Through Meaningful Evaluation.

New York, New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on UrbanEducation, 1993.

Houston, Paul. Schools: Islands of Safety in a Sea of Violence.

www.aasa.org/Latest/Outlook/outlook10-7-98.htmAASA Leadership for LearningStephens, Ronald D. The Art of Safe School Planning.

Bloomington, Indiana: The School Administrator, 1996.

Stephens, Ronald D. Conducting a Self-Assessment of School Safety.

Bloomington, Indiana: The School Administrator, 1996.

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