If you assume that school safety will be more complex this year than ever before, I would raise my hand in agreement. There is nothing easy about ensuring the security and safety of your school community.
With the onset of the new school year, nearly every school leader and local board of education has set safety as the highest priority for all stakeholders. But there must be a systematic approach to prioritizing needs and expenditures. Proactive or reactive spending? Mental health providers or hardening the building? How do you marginalize the gap between your least secure to most secure building? Armed or unarmed security?
After taking a deep dive in safety for the past five years, I am certain that critical decisions around security must be collaborative, with every community stakeholder having the opportunity to share their insights and thoughts. Optimal safety runs parallel with optimal community leader relationships. Also, because security plans are always works in progress, they should never be considered complete.
The following must be in place for a rich safety plan:
- School and safety officials must respect each other’s work and collaborate often.
- The local school board must prioritize safety expenditures as a non-negotiable in the local budget.
- The local safety plan must be understood by all.
AASA, the School Superintendents Association, has made available to every school leader a safety toolkit defning best practices. (To access the School Safety and Crisis Planning Toolkit, visit http://aasacentral.org/school-safety/.)
As we look to enhance school safety, it is my hope that every school leader will examine the toolkit and their current practice to assure their community that they are truly working to make a difference.