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Soft Targets? I Disagree.

By Jeffrey Shields posted 06-11-2018 08:11 AM

  

Projections |

Independent schools aren’t “soft targets” that need to be hardened. We are learning communities that need to be safe for our students.

From the May/June 2018 Net Assets magazine 

Jeff Shields heashot
Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO
Soft target
sôft tärget
noun
a person or thing that is relatively
unprotected or vulnerable, especially
to military or terrorist attack.

I’ve always thought of our independent schools as learning communities. Like thousands of independent school parents, I trust that my daughter’s school is a safe place where she is known and understood as a person and as a student. Every morning, we kiss our children goodbye with the inherent and underlying belief that we are doing our best to keep them safe and provide them with a world-class education.

For those reasons and more, I resist the current rhetoric describing schools as “soft targets.” This overtly militaristic term is completely divorced from the institutions where we expect our daughters and sons to learn, develop and grow every day. It’s also a term that is rightfully incomprehensible in relation to the knowledge, skills and experiences that our school’s leadership, administrators and faculty have developed throughout their careers. For me, accepting this term is analogous to giving up and letting the bad guys win. President Donald Trump has called for “hardened schools” to end the cycle of school massacres. I say no thanks, and I think most other parents do as well.

Research supports our alarm. Writing for Politico in March, Caitlin Emma reported that research “suggests that simply fortifying schools — whether through the presence of armed officials or beefed-up security — does little to reduce the likelihood of school shootings and is not nearly as effective as identifying threats and intervening early to address them.”

Simply fortifying schools — whether through the presence of armed officials or beefed-up security — does little to reduce the likelihood of school shootings.

Caitlin Emma
Politico

NBOA’s friends at United Educators agree. UE, which provides liability insurance and risk management services to nearly 1,600 schools, colleges and universities, espoused in 2016 that the best way to prevent school shootings is to implement a threat assessment team. Attackers often engage in behaviors that concern others prior to a shooting, UE explained, and a threat assessment team gathers and assesses information about these behaviors before intervening.

Experts like UE have other recommendations as well, of course, such as emergency management plans, crisis communications plans, site assessments, drills, tabletop exercises... But I’ll go one further. I believe the best safety investment we can make on behalf of our students is wholly within our DNA as independent schools: simply knowing our students. This is something our schools’ faculty and staff do amazingly well. After all, we aren’t “soft targets” that need to be hardened. We are learning communities that must be kept safe for our students.

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.

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