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Five Ways to Take Action to Make Schools Safer

December 13, 2016

Recent violent events have raised increasing concerns about our children and their safety in our schools. Dave Long, Ph.D., a former teacher, county superintendent and California Secretary of Education, discussed these emerging risks with us and how communities can work together to improve school safety.

Now as the facilitator of the Safe Schools Conference, Dave Long advocates for a community-based plan for school safety. “The first Safe Schools Conference in 2010 was a one-day conference attended by 90 participants, one general session speaker, and 12 workshops,” he described. “The topics centered on drug use, drug identification, drug-sniffing dogs, as well as gangs and gang involvement, and attendance inhibitors.”

Much has changed since then, and the concerns emphasized five years ago are much different today with new set of priorities, preventive measures, planning and training. “The size and scope of the conference has grown to three days and over 550 participants each year from the education and law enforcement communities.”

Dave explained how the issues and priorities changed. “What’s evolved based on the current environment are issues of bullying and cyber-bullying, school shootings, cooperation and communication between schools, law enforcement and other community resources, legal and liability considerations, facility planning for school safety, mental health and identification factors, and after school and night time activity vigilance.”

Outlining five areas of focus, Dave has described a plan schools, public safety agencies and community organizations can implement to create a more secure environment in their schools and to be ready in case a violent incident does occur.

    Meet, talk, create, plan, and implement with members of the community and school community. Build the school and community safety plan together!
    Build relationships with the police chief, the chamber of commerce, PTA, and get them around one table to talk openly about safety. If there is an active shooter at 7:00 p.m. on one of your campuses do you have the cell phone number of the police chief or county sheriff and know them well enough to call them? As superintendent, our school benefited from this kind of relationship with our police chief when we had someone shooting at one of our school sites, fortunately after everyone had left.
    Build it together, and present and communicate it as a community plan for the safety of all of our children and community members.
    Are you prepared to communicate quickly and efficiently to respond to an emergency? Can you alert your staff within seconds during a situation? Do you have ways to contact every member of the community within minutes?
    This area changes by the week and so do the solutions. What are the latest legal issues, what’s developing in the drug culture, what new technologies are impacting the safety of our children? Keep your staff trained and equipped for emerging threats.

To school leaders struggling with how to address the threat of campus violence, Dave offers the advice to become a champion for school safety.

“Realizing that an educator’s plate is full, the safety of our children and the creation of a safe and nurturing learning environment must be our number one priority! Take the lead, go to conferences, keep staff up to date on safety, and make this a permanent agenda item for school sites, councils and board meetings. It is critically important to keep this concern in front of the entire community.”

About Dave Long
Dave Long, Ph.D., served as California Secretary of Education under Governor Schwarzenegger. Dr. Long has more than 40 years of experience in the field of education, ranging from 21 years of classroom teaching to becoming Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. He currently heads Dave Long &Associates, an educational consulting firm, and is the Chairperson of the Federal Education Safe and Drug Free Schools and Community Advisory Committee.