The increasing number of school shootings, which have begun to affect all stakeholders in education, beg the question of educators can work with stakeholders to provide safe and secure schools for our students. Students can only do so much. They can report concerns when they hear or read disturbing information if they are trained to “see something, say something” by their educators, but they can’t change their school’s policies about safety. Parents, like students, can only do so much. They can elect school board members, who are willing to address safety in schools, and they can support professional development for their school’s staff and students; however, they can’t change their school’s safety policies. Teachers can join safe school committees and seek professional development on reacting in an emergency, but they really can’t change campus policy as individuals. While teachers can be responsible for the safety and security of students within their own classrooms (and in the hallways between passing periods), only administrators can change policies to ensure a higher level of safety and security for their staff and students.
Building administrators can only work within their parameters of their district policies when changing their building procedures regarding safety and security. They can bring new concerns and desires for change to district-level administrators when they see a problem, but they cannot change district policy regarding safety and security for their own campuses. District-level administrators bear the highest level of responsibility to ensure their district policies are based on the newest, best professional development available, that their campuses are kept up-to-date in every way possible for safety and security, and that building administrators are well-trained to implement security measures at their campuses. Recent studies have shown that “increased policing of schools, the use of metal detectors, and punitive disciplinary measures” on campuses with “full-time law enforcement” have not “served as an effective deterrent for problematic behaviors” (Kwong & Davis, 2015, p. 69). District-level administrators must, therefore, seek out more effective measures and provide training on these measures to their building staff members.
District Administrators also bear a high level of responsibility to listen to feedback from their building administrators when problems arise so they can address those problems with necessary revisions to district policy. Building administrators must also stay abreast of recent professional trends in safety and security to ensure their buildings are as safe as possible. Most professional development on bullying still trains teachers to stop bullying instead of trying to prevent it, and building administrators can provide better trainings on actual prevention, not only for bullying, but for other safety issues, as well (Side & Johnson, 2014, p. 222). And like district-level administrators, they must seek and listen to feedback from their teachers as problems arise so they can revise their campus policies as needed. If district and building administrators work together to seek meaningful trainings and to revise policies as needed, they will ensure much safer campuses where learning can be the focus. Kwong and Davis (2015) argue that “climate is an important factor in academic achievement and performance,” and if teachers want students to focus on learning, then they must provide safe and secure classrooms when focusing on learning is easy, not challenging.
Teachers bear the highest level of responsibility for implementing safety and security measures for students because they are in direct contact with students. They need to be experts in safety and security policy regarding not only the multiple emergencies, which might occur on a school campus, but also in smaller matters like bullying, depression, and other socioemotional issues that affect students’ safety and security on a daily basis. Between 50-80% of school-aged children are affected by bullying each year, increasing their risk of depression and suicide (Side & Johnson, 2014, p. 217). Teachers are the “front lines” for their students and need to seek their own professional development when it’s not necessarily available from their campus administrators. Providing a culture of learning, safety, and security “makes sure students building the habits of mind and heart that allow their learning to fly” (Bambrick-Santoyo & Peiser, 2012, p. 168). A lack of well-planned trainings does not excuse teachers from educating themselves and trying with all diligence to meet the learning needs or the safety needs of their students. They cannot change building policies, but they can change their own mastery of safety and security issues.
More than anything else, all stakeholders need to work together to improve safety and security for all students. Providing for the safety and security of our students ensures they will focus more effectively on learning, which should be the primary focus of all educators. Parents and students can advocate for their own needs and lobby for better funding and better policies through local and state governmental channels. They can also volunteer at their local campuses to ensure a strong presence of all stakeholders. No one is excused from helping educators find better answers to the growing crisis of unsafe schools, and if all of us work together, we can provide much safer campuses for our learners.