Safe schools are everybody's concern these days. Years ago you worried about keeping the dormitory doors locked at night and making sure the trip to New York City was properly chaperoned. It was so simple.
Now parents, teachers and students have to deal with cyber-security, stalkers, substance abuse, suicide and a host of other really tough issues. How does a school community cope with safety? Let's take a look.
Improve your communications
In a very small school (100 students or less) you might be able to get away with the old-fashioned telephone tree where one person calls five others and so on. The problem with this method of alerting the community is that there are always a few people who don't get called. Install a web-based notification system and most of your worries will be over. Web-based notification systems
use text messages, email and web sites to communicate news instantly to every member of your community. Whether the news is a weather-related closing or an accident involving one of your teams, it is received instantly. You can alert your community to whatever the bad news is before it hits the media.Improve your training
Pretending issues don't exist is simply stupid and irresponsible. It also exposes your school to amazing amounts of legal liability. Every school operates in loco parentis
. Don't take that responsibility lightly.
Hold seminars for every member of your community on the big issues such as sexual harrassment, hazing
and bullying. Conduct followup training and refresher sessions. Everybody from the security guard to the headmaster needs to understand the issues and what to look for.
Develop policies and codes of conduct to deal with all these issues. Then enforce these policies unequivocally and fairly.
Improve your support staff and programs
The pressure on young people to succeed in a private school is enormous. Parents explicitly or implicitly expect results, excellent results, from their substantial investment in their child's education. Depression, substance abuse and suicide
are all syndromes which result from such pressures. Having established protocols, trained staff and support programs to assist your students is critical.Constant vigilance
Teach every member of your community to be vigilant. They need to be alert to what is going on around them and report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities. Treat every report, no matter how insignificant, with respect and sensitivity. You never know where these reports may lead.
A safe school does not happen. A safe school is the result of a concerted effort on the part of your school community to have a safe school.