In 2018, there were a total of 24 school shootings. In 2019, there have been a total of 22. Students and even parents used to say, “This will never happen to us.” However, due to this harsh, new reality, it has become, “This could happen to us.”
Students should not have to worry about their safety at school; but, in light of recent events, should we? My thought is that we as students can only feel safe once we recognize our role in making our schools safe. We are the foundation of schools — their eyes and ears. As we we will be the first to notice when something is out of the ordinary, our participation is necessary to make change or improve safety before any threat materializes.
Taking matters in hand
That realization inspired me to get involved in my own school’s safety solutions. I researched and contacted school safety nonprofit Safe and Sound Schools, which empowers young people who care about school safety to become leaders on their campuses. One way to do that is to create your own Safe and Sound Student Club, a student-led organization that cultivates awareness around safety, leadership development, and community through school safety service projects.
In January 2019, I founded the Safe and Sound Student Club at my high school, Summerville High, with a council of classmates. After several meetings, a constant topic that emerged as communication. As students spend an average of six hours every day at school, we need someone to confide in when things are not going right, especially with our friends or classmates.
We know that communication leads to more open, honest relationships and ultimately safer school environments. Our club hoped that by focusing on better communication and relationships between students and teachers, students would be more willing to share potential school safety threats or problems instead of ignoring them.
A top priority
With communication as our club’s priority, and we adopted the phrase “look out, speak out,” encouraging students to voice their concerns about school safety while removing any related stigma. Many students believe that, when they report something, there will be judgment or damage to their reputations.
Taking that stigma out of the equation can have a huge impact on saving lives. “Look out, speak out” emphasized the greater risk at hand when we as students choose not to bring attention to suspicious activity or holes in safety plans.
Lightening the mood
Next, the Summerville Safe and Sound Student Club wanted to do something fun to improve student-teacher relationships by hosting an inaugural “Summerville Teacher-Student Breakfast.” At each table were cards with questions that teachers and students could ask to get to know each other better. The event also included fun music, a raffle, and, of course, tons of good food.
It was a big collaborative effort from the whole school community — our club, students, teachers, administrators, and parents. It ended up being a successful event, with over 160 students and teachers in attendance! Summerville now plans to host a student-teacher breakfast yearly.
The Summerville Safe and Sound Student Club is still new. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and it all started with a simple conversation. I know that there’s a lot more to be done when it comes to school safety on my campus and at high schools across our country. But the most important thing that I’ve learned is that improving safety requires schools to bridge communication gaps between everyone involved. School safety doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of our principal, teachers, parents, or even police. We as students have the power to make some of the biggest changes from the inside out. With everyone working together, we’re unstoppable.
Cameron Fox, Teen Ambassador, Safe and Sound Schools, [email protected]