As children across the country return to school, parents have prioritized, perhaps above all other issues, the issue and importance of school safety.
Number one priority
School safety is challenging, and the best safety plan is always under review — it’s never complete.
Planners must never, ever work in isolation. It is absolutely essential for multiple voices and stakeholders to have the opportunity to share thoughts in order to design the most appropriate plan for the local district. A key voice in this work must come from the student.
A community simply does not have a plan if it lacks a positive relationship, built on respect and responsibility, between the chief public safety official and the school superintendent. If that relationship is fractured, immediate attention and energy must be put in place.
What’s in a plan
A safety planner must build the district’s plan around the following:
- A meaningful difference: When the plan is reviewed, amended or changed, will the end result create a meaningful difference to staff and students? These continuous checks and balances ensure efficacy and best practice with school safety.
- Sustainability: Are the plan changes that are being put into place sustainable? Sustainability is an absolute must-have in safety planning, and this crosscheck ensures a consistency in the safety work that is expected by a community.
Breaking it down
Safety planning is difficult. Safety planning is built a percentage point at a time. Safety planning must have ownership and accountability from the executive leaders of the district and the local board of education.
In it together
Optimal safety planning must include a school culture of understanding and recognize that everyone is a part of the solution.
Safety planners must work hard to answer the following question: How do we know our most complex student, staff member, parent, and community member are being accounted for?
From the top down
Enhancing school safety across the country must start with every leader. This is not an area to delegate. School leaders must champion facility upgrades and appropriate mental health staffing levels. Equally as important, they must find time to regularly meet with public safety officials.
The complexity of school safety must include partnerships and relationships. The plan must be centered on the following descriptors: It must be meaningful, and it must be sustainable.
For school safety to matter, it must make a scalable difference — one student at a time — all the time.
Dr. Joseph Erardi, Jr, Retired Superintendent, Newtown Superintendent of Schools, [email protected]