Protecting Children Requires the Right Balance
Preventing School Violence is part of our goal to keep schools safe. Dr. Scott Poland, author of many of our Keenan SafeSchools courses and school safety webinars recently wrote an article that was published by the American School Board Journal that focuses on how planning can play a key role in preventing school violence.
Dr. Poland stated that school violence is rare and that FBI data shows that students are far safer in schools than they are even at home. However, when horrific tragedies occur, school officials, parents, and the community tend to do one of two things: underreact or overreact.
Underreacting comes from the mindset of “this couldn’t happen here” and suggests complacency. Overreacting leads to calls for excessive security measures, including a movement to arm teachers. Dr. Poland feels that balanced plans that prepare students and staff for emergencies while avoiding measures that traumatize them are what keep schools the safest.
What is the goal of a school violence policy? No one would say that the primary objective is to invoke fear. Unfortunately, that may be the primary takeaway for students in the face of overzealous strategies.
Many school shootings may have been prevented with a smart, practical plan in place that routinely discusses safety with staff and students and gets their commitment to it. A poor school violence protocol may actually contribute to violence in schools by failing to focus on an effective safety program’s most basic criteria—student and staff involvement.
Basic strategies—like where to move students, making sure that doors can lock, barricading and blocking windows—do not exist in protocols in many schools, nor are all educators trained in these foundational concepts. Often, in response to a high-profile school shooting, schools rush to implement an overzealous plan without making these basic safety checks. Every school is different, and administrators know their school’s vulnerabilities and safety gaps. Proactive, preventive plans can help.
About Dr. Scott Poland
Dr. Scott Poland, Co-Director, Suicide and Violence Prevention Office, has been a responder to 13 different school shootings, including two in California. He is very dedicated to prevention and identifying the lessons that have been learned from school shootings. Dr. Poland is a full professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.