The Truth about school safety and security

Want to know the truth about how safe our nations schools really are? This is a question that gets asked all the time and a question that gets answered differently almost every-time as well. If we want to know how safe a school is then we first have to ask, safe against what? Bullying, shootings, weapons, drugs etc.. If you don’t know what you are trying to truly accomplish or stay safe against or trying to prevent, then you are not really safe. Too many times schools, understandably, respond to an adverse event by buying new technologies to keep the adversity from happening again. In reality, that does not work, you just buying neat technology which has its place in the process, but it is not providing a complete safety and security environment.  I love good technology as much as the next person, but we can't rely on that alone. 

So, how safe is your school? In order to answer that question honestly, you need to know what your trying to be safe from. Whether you are trying to create a safe environment from bullying alone or you have multiple concerns you are trying to stay safe from, you have to know as much about these concerns as possible, how often are they occurring on and off school grounds and what you are really able and prepared to do about it. So, now you are asking how do you that? Good question, but it needs to be asked this way, “How do I effectively and efficiently do that?”. If you try to accomplish this all at once or with one approach, then you will not get very far. The effectiveness and efficiency of what you do is where you will make the real difference and begin to truly create the culture of safety and security you need. I am sure it sounds difficult, but it really isn’t. In order to accomplish this, there are a few things that need to happen first.

First and foremost, if we want to start being effective and efficient in our approach then we need to stop trying to put the same answers before every question. If the answer is to deploy X number of surveillance cameras, X number of door locks, X number of trainings and X number of software licenses to the school, then what question are we applying that answer too? Shootings, bullying, what? The real challenge is asking the right questions, not just surface questions like “How do we stop school shootings”, yes that is a great question to ask, but it is not deep enough to make a difference or to return better answers. Instead, we should be asking “what are the warning signs of school shootings”, “how do we identify those warning signs”, “what tools and resources do I need to help identify those warning signs”. This list goes on but hopefully you see my point, don’t let someone steer you down one path with the only answer being buy more technology. This has not worked well and will only continue to not work well if that is the only thing you are doing. We need to start asking better questions, we need to start brainstorming and we need to start thinking outside the box. Effectiveness and efficiency will happen when we start implementing efforts based on facts, data, behavior, trends and understanding our capabilities rather than a trying to deploy a one size fits all answer.

Second, an understanding of what is really happening on school grounds or the cyber environment involving school students or staff. What data do you track? What is the right data to track? I am a firm believer in “the more you know, the more you can prevent”. Until this information is really understood, progress in school safety and security will be difficult. If you are making decisions based on half the available information, are you creating the safest environment you can, or are you hoping that nothing will happen? Things are happening everyday on school grounds, what information are you collecting and further, what are you doing with that information. Knowing this will also help you be more effective and efficient in your efforts.

The truth about school safety and security is that we are not asking the right questions about school safety and security.  Stop asking “how safe are our schools” and start asking “what are we doing to keep our schools safe and secure”, "how effective and efficient are our efforts to keep our schools safe" and" "is what we are doing going to make a difference".  Don’t be afraid to challenge the answers, don’t be afraid to look for alternatives and don’t be afraid to advocate for what you know is in your students and staff’s best interest.  Remember, the more you know, the more you can prevent, prevention should be at the core of everything decision made.

This can be a complex topic, but it does not have to be. You have every right to have down to earth discusions to find out what is possible and in your best interest. If you feel you are not getting what you need, stop and look elsewhere, get other opinions and control your destiny.