We all want to feel that our schools are prepared for potential catastrophic incidents. We have safety committees, training drills, and procedures for response. When we look at the numbers for fire related injuries and casualties from climatic events we can clearly see that the safety protocols are working. Unfortunately, when we look at school violence the numbers are shocking. We have an epidemic of violence that is being ignored.
The CDC publishes an annual report on school violence. The numbers are staggering in the consistency from year to year. Some of the more notable findings reveal the nature of weapons in schools. Almost 1 out of 20 students has brought a weapon to school for protection. 6.0% of students report being injured or threatened with a weapon within the last 12 months. 1 in 20 teachers were physically attacked by a student. When you recognize that according to the FBI studies the violence in our schools is perpetuated by students, staff and domestic partners the notion of safety through external physical security measures falls apart.
When tragedies happen in schools we consider our own situation and how that impacts our facilities and students. A school fire or a severe weather event that involves a school doesn’t cause us alarm because we know that we are prepared for such events. The same cannot be said for school violence and hostile intruders. Whenever there are school threats or incidents of violence we enhance police presence, convene meetings, and consider upgrades. This alone is an acknowledgment that we don’t feel safe. The clear indication is that what we are doing isn’t enough and more needs to be done. The problem is we have been doing the same thing for the last quarter century but the numbers keep rising.
The addition of physical security measures is only a barrier that must be overcome by an intruder. If the perpetrator starts inside those barriers then the solution wasn’t viable. The security needs to be a deterrent not just an obstacle. Empowerment of staff and notification are the two factors that have been shown to reduce casualties in a crisis. The SafeDefend system was designed by a school administrator with this knowledge in mind. Keeping kids safe requires a proactive approach at the classroom level. Assuming that the problem can be locked out is a perception that isn’t keeping kids safe.