Those of us who work in schools are intimately familiar with the process of pinching pennies. Educators routinely tap into their personal reserves to provide much-needed supplies for students. They often dig into their own pockets to provide snacks and lunches for students in need. They cover field trip costs without complaint. Educators are accustomed to hearing, “that’s a great idea, but where are we going to get the funding to implement it?”
Making your school safer with limited funds
It is with this reality in mind, that I want to talk about where we invest our limited dollars to help make our schools safer places for our students, staff and parents. There is a lot of talk these days about training staff and students on how to respond in an active shooter situation. I support training and drills. They are paramount to school safety practices. When under duress, we experience physiological symptoms that can render us unable to think quickly, thereby necessitating a conditioned response. I strongly believe drills and response protocols are a critical component of any school, home and workplace safety plan.
But, when we have limited funds and can’t cover all the bases at once, where should we start? Consider this: even though mass violence is on the rise, school shooting attacks remain rare. The chances of your school being involved in one are roughly 1 in 50,000.
However, research shows that a safe and positive school climate fostering communication, relationships and a sense of belonging improves academic performance, reduces risk factors and minimizes problem behaviors. This is something everyone benefits from on a daily basis.
The keys to building positive school climate are getting all staff members on board, implementing positive, asset-building programs and having a process in place to identify students and staff who need social, emotional and psychological assistance. Beyond that, we must facilitate help for individuals who need it so they can rise out of a place of struggle, frustration, anger and depression. It is those very feelings that nearly always precede acts of violence, from bullying to verbal harassment to an after-school fight to a full on attack of the school community. By addressing the needs of individuals with empathy and crafting a plan to resolve the difficulties, we will make our schools much safer for everyone, every day of the year.