One of my favorite memories in elementary school was when my parents would come to school and have lunch with me. Most of the time they would bring Subway sandwiches and we would sit in my cafeteria or in the courtyard and eat lunch together. At the time (which looking back was over ten years ago) anyone could walk into the front office, write their name on a sign in sheet and enter the school.
This was in a public school in Cabarrus County (a county right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina) and policies have changed drastically since then. The first time that I recognized the changes in the newly implemented safety procedures was during my junior year of high school. I was visiting my old elementary school on Read Across America Day (March 2nd) and had coordinated with the school to read a Dr. Seuss book to a few classes in the school. When I approached the outside doors of the school, I was shocked to see that they were locked. Directions on the door instructed for visitors to push the button that was next to the door and to stand in front of the little camera so the office staff could “buzz” me in. After entering the first set of double doors, I noticed that within the past few months, another set of glass doors had been constructed to separate those entering the school from having access to the building. I entered the front office and was instructed to sign in via the computer program where I entered the date/time, my name, and the reason for the visit. I also had to take a picture of my face through the computer monitor and scan in a picture of my driver’s license. All to read a Dr. Seuss book.
While I was thrown off by this tedious process, I am glad to see that our schools are taking precautionary measures to keep students safe.
Much of these safety measures have taken place over the past 4-5 years and schools are implementing a variety of practices to promote the safety of students, faulty, and staff. A few of these practices include: locking or monitoring doors and gates, limiting access to school campuses, introducing metal detectors and security cameras, controlling access via ID cards, and bringing in police officers and drug dogs for random searches.
The National Center for Education Statistics created the following graph demonstrating safety and security measures that were implemented by public schools in the 2013-2014 school year.
As wonderful as these procedures are, it is unfortunate that the reason why most of these safety procedures exist is a result of tragedies in which safety procedures may have altered the outcome. According to Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which develops school-safety plans,
“There is no absolute, but you can significantly reduce the risks”
This is a sad world that we live in where this is the hope of our student’s safety and if implementing these security strategies is a way for our school officials take responsiblity for effectively protecting students, we should adopt these changes with open arms. While it may seem like these officials are being over-zealous with the precautionary standards, we need to continue advocating for the safety of our students while promoting safe environments inside and outside the school.
Dorn also states that he has encountered cases where “Parents haven’t wanted it (referring to the safety measures) because they say it’s creating a prison-like environment” but in all, we should be striving to implement protective policies in all ways possible and are accountable for maintaining our students safety.
In the future, how can we effectively implement safety procedures in our schools? And what is realistic for the future of these procedures?