Schools must be able to protect students from physical harm and ensure a safe learning environment. This includes preventing theft and violence as well as protecting students from natural disasters like fires and blizzards.
Schools also must consider the out-of-school influences on student safety, such as family, community and social media. This requires schools to be mindful of their policies and procedures.
School safety drills, whether fire, tornado, lockdown or earthquake drills, help students learn how to escape a building, where to hide inside it and what to do during an emergency. They build muscle memory, automatic responses and ease anxieties.
To maximize the effectiveness of these types of drills, it's important that staff, students, parents and community members are aware of them in advance, either through written communication or a preannounced announcement ("This is a drill; there is no actual emergency.").
Also, drills should be varied, with different scenarios to prepare for multiple kinds of emergencies. This is key to ensuring an inclusive approach that allows for the safe participation of all students, including those with disabilities.
Whether they're on the receiving end of bullying or are the bullies, students suffer from negative consequences, including absenteeism, a decline in school performance and an increased likelihood of using alcohol, tobacco and drugs (US Department of Health and Human Services). To help kids succeed, schools should implement programs to ensure that all students feel safe at school.
A key element to this is teaching kids that bullying is never okay, and that it's important to speak up when they see bullying behavior take place. Kids should be taught that they can seek help from an adult if they're being harassed, either online or face-to-face, and that adults will always be there to support them.
The school should also train staff on how to identify bullying behavior, and should create a system for recording it. This helps staff members target bullying behaviors, and can be useful if law enforcement or other outside sources need to get involved in a specific situation.
In this time of ever-present threats, it’s more important than ever that schools take a proactive approach to school security. However, it’s also crucial that schools strike a balance between student safety and privacy. Too much surveillance and data sharing without clear justification overwhelms administrators, casts suspicion on students who don’t deserve it, and can damage trust.
Many schools use a variety of security measures to ensure a secure learning environment. These include implementing comprehensive policies and procedures that outline the protocols to follow during an emergency. This helps to create a more secure and supportive educational environment for teachers and students.
To increase the effectiveness of these policies, it’s important that school administration, teachers and students actively participate in the development process. This enables them to fully understand and buy into the protocols and feel confident in using them during an emergency. Schools should also implement a two-way communication system that connects all classrooms and faculty with the security office.
Whether they're learning in a classroom or online, students need to feel physically and emotionally safe. Implementing effective safety protocols is one way schools can help make this happen.
However, school leaders also need to ensure that their students are well cared for. This involves more than just the basics, such as implementing a fire drill or tornado drill. It includes ensuring that students are not experiencing stress and anxiety, or are struggling with difficult home situations.
Schools can do this by ensuring students have access to mental health services, and by fostering positive relationships in the classroom. For example, by incorporating the morning meeting model, educators can create a supportive classroom culture that celebrates diversity and encourages positive social interactions. This allows students to develop a sense of belonging and build confidence in their abilities. In turn, this can help students cope with emotional discomfort and inform lifelong behaviors. Achieving a healthy wellbeing for all students is the best way to ensure a secure learning environment.