Safety a Priority When Headed Back to School


Last year more than 50 million students entered public elementary and secondary schools in American. These are record numbers for the U.S. as the population grows and becomes more educated. In general, safety has become a major issue in the United States. A top priority for teachers, administrators and parents is not just how to educate these students, but also how to keep them safe as they head back to school.

Over the years school violence has decreased according to the latest figures available from 2010. Experts argue that kids are safer at school than anywhere else. Since the early 1990s the numbers of homicides have decreased by 40 per 1,000 students according to figures from 2010. One cannot help but to question “are children safe at school?” People have plenty of reason to believe that they are not safe at school given the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary school, where 28 people lost their lives. This included students, teachers and the gunmen. Just last month 15-year-old Jared Padgett shot and killed his 14-year-old classmate in their school gym located in Troutdale, Oregon.

So, just how are teachers and administrators making safety a top priority as they head back to school? Most of the specific regulations are left up to the states to set in place for public schools. The state of New Jersey has adopted an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. During School Violence Awareness week, in October, New Jersey schools participate in activities designed to assist in compliance of the state’s polices on safety and anti bullying. New York has safety agents placed in school. In order to become an agent one must pass a character and background investigation and obtain NYC patrolman status among other requirements.

In the past some schools in Illinois and South Carolina have required clear backpacks. Utah requires all schools to adopt an emergency response plan to prevent and respond to school violence. The plan must include some type of correspondence with local law enforcement and public safety officials. The state also requires that the children receive emergency training that could include first aid and rescue techniques. The drills students perform not only include the traditional fire drill but the lockdown for violence drill as well. At least one violence emergency drill must be performed each year. Lockdown drills include everything from parents receiving text messages from the school to make them aware of the school’s lockdown status to teachers locking classroom doors and students staying away from windows.

These types of drills are the norm when making safety a top priority for children heading back to school. Schools all over the country practice them regularly and it has become routine for k-12 grade students in the United States. It is estimated that 30 states have required emergency and safety plans for their schools. Twenty of those states require some type of lockdown drill. It is clear that modern school security plans have expanded far beyond the usual fire and earthquake drills. Some schools even include anti Electronic Violence Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policies. Something that was once considered harmless school yard play, or a simple “poke” on Facebook, is now considered a serious safety issue. States and schools are taking all types of measures to make students security a top priority as they head back to school.

By Ashley Poag

New York Times
National Department for Educational Statistics

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