From the May/June 2018 Net Assets magazine
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.
A School Where “P” Means Protection
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.
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.
Q: How have you talked with your daughter about safety?
A: We’ve had the same discussion countless times, pretty much since she was old enough to answer. I’ll remind her to look both ways before crossing the street, or to wear a helmet while riding her bike, and she’ll roll her eyes, and I’ll say, “Samantha, what’s my number-one job?” She always responds the same way, right on cue: “To keep me safe.”
Q: What are you hearing from business officers about school safety in the wake of this year’s shootings?
A: Every school shooting is, of course, very sad and troubling for anyone who works in a school environment. I think business officers likely face renewed pressures to “do something” and are challenged, as they always are, to be both responsive to parental concerns regarding students’ safety, which is our number-one concern, and being good and effective financial stewards of the school.
Q: What impact do you believe the Stoneman Douglas tragedy will have on issues regarding school safety?
A: Like many, I’m emboldened by the passion of these students and their commitment to making a difference for generations to come. I agree that this feels different. It is amazing to see 17- and 18-year-olds as engaged and motivated around a social issue that is this consequential to our society as a whole.
Strategies: Cool Heads, Safer Spaces: The Value of Security Training
Ready for Anything: Preparing for Campus Emergencies
Nowhere to Hide: Best Practices in Crisis Management
ERM: Everybody is a Risk Manager
Sign in to leave a comment
Get Net Assets NOW
NBOA's free twice-monthly newsletter
1400 I Street, NW, Suite 675Washington, DC 20005www.nboa.org