Preventative Measures for School Safety
After a 14-year-old student opened fire on his peers and teachers at a downtown Cleveland high school in October- ending the rampage only by turning the gun on himself-gun rights activists immediately began calling for legislation to allow teachers to carry firearms in school.
But safety and security experts say that bringing more guns into our nation's schools-and even mechanics such as security systems and emergency notification broadcasting-do not address the root causes of how and why students engage in violent behavior in the first place.
Curt Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, says that districts must focus on maximizing prevention efforts from the get-go, rather than, say, declaring a temporary state of heightened alert following a tragedy, then reverting "back to the status quo." He adds that one of the most important practices for administrators and security professionals to get in the habit of is taking seriously and responding to student tips.
Says Lavarello, "It's better to look into 100 reports that turn out to be false" than have to deal later with something that could have been prevented.
Michael Corcoran, an expert in workplace and school violence and an outside consultant for Vance International, a trusted investigation and security consulting firm, says that the culture surrounding today's children is markedly different from the one that baby boomers grew up in, with more of an emphasis on collective, team-based learning experiences.
"It's a people-oriented world for students," he says, "and with that comes a great need for supervision and structure."
Therefore, Corcoran contends that educators, administrators and community members should reach out to loners-students who by no means are programmed to "snap" but can always benefit from adult involvement and support-and adopt measures to monitor and examine other behaviors that could lead to violence.
The School Safety Advocacy Council also recently released its 2007 National School Safety Survey, in which more than 75 percent of its respondents said a national mandatory school crime reporting law would help efforts to improve school safety. The survey results are available at www.schoolsafety911.com.
Three schools in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System- Harpeth Valley Elementary, Gramar Middle and Antioch High School-just became the first in the nation to use security cameras designed to spot criminals using controversial face-recognition technology.
Assistant Superintendent Ralph Thompson says that the cameras, a product of Cross Match Technologies, will take digital photos of students and workers at the three test schools and store them in the camera system. The cameras will send an alert to those monitoring the system when they detect an unfamiliar face or someone barred from school grounds.
Jonathon Phillips, head of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's facerecognition program, says that matches are not guaranteed.
Thompson acknowledges the cameras' fl aws but stands by the benefits they could afford the schools. "This is definitely not a cure-all," he says, "but it could cure a lot. And it's a pilot. If the cameras are not effective, we can take them out."
Security Management Tool
With the new Student-Watch Suite from PublicSchoolWORKS, a Web-based system for managing the tracking and reporting of student safety, accidents and behavior issues, administrators can more easily stay informed of current legislation regarding student safety and maintain constant and consistent reporting and safety compliance.
The suite provides educators with details on student-related issues and accidents through four different integrated systems. For more information visit www.PublicSchoolWorks.com.