How Safe Is Your Child's School?

10 questions to understand how important safety is at your child’s school

Did you know:

  • Students aged 12 through 18 were victims of more than 2.7 million crimes at school (Source: 2000 joint report by the United States Departments of Education and Justice).

  • 39 percent of middle school and 36 percent of high school students say they don’t feel safe on campus (Source: A recent survey by Character Counts).a non-profit, non-partisan group reveals that more than one in three).

  • Only 35 percent of students in 1999 felt that teachers and administrators had taken all necessary steps for safety and security (Source: State of Our Youth survey)

Sandy Calabrese, founder of the SafeKids® program and frequent speaker on the issue of school safety, articulates something that we all know instinctively, “Students cannot effectively learn in an environment where they do not feel secure.”

Calabrese suggests that parents ask the following 10 questions to understand how important safety is at their child’s school.

1. What are the crime and incident statistics for the school?

Most states require that all schools report any crimes or injuries that happen on campus. A school with a low, or declining, number of incidents can be a good indication of the school’s commitment to safety.

2. How is access to the campus controlled?

Many school administrators say that the majority of security problems come from unauthorized people entering the campus. Schools can limit the numberof access points to the campus and actively monitor school grounds with volunteers, staff, security guards and/or surveillance cameras. In schools where access is controlled, visitors are required to check in at the office and are given identification badges. Many schools require all students to wear I.D. badges and some schools use access control systems that allow access to the campus only if an I.D. card is swiped through a card reader. Access cards can also be used as library and meal cards and for registration.

3. Does the school have a disaster response plan?

Many schools have a definite response plan for different types of emergencies. These plans should be updated periodically and practiced as often as fire drills.

4. Does the school have adequate supervision during, before and after the school day?

Many incidents happen during non-classroom time – before and after school or during lunchtime. The presence of teachers, supervisors, administrators and security guards during these times can help to improve school safety.

5. Is there a consistent and enforced code of behavior?

Schools across the country have implemented a consistent code of behavior that plainly spells out to both students and parents that any breach of that code would be dealt with consistently and uniformly for all students. Schools should have a consistent code of behavior that is spelled out plainly to both students and parents. Any breach in behavior must be dealt with consistently and uniformly for all students.

6. Are security guards or police officers present on campus?

The presence of security guards or police officers on campus can be a definite deterrent to crime. Officers that maintain a positive ongoing relationship with students can also gain student trust and monitor rumors of impending criminal situations.

7. Are the lines of communication open between students and the administration?

Communication is often considered a useful tool in preventing crime, therefore schools have adopted ways for students to anonymously pass along information. A hotline number can be set up where students can call to report rumors and speak with counselors. A process can also be implemented so that rumors are reported to the proper authorities.

Communication should be encouraged and the school should have a way for students to anonymously pass along this type of information. There should be a hotline number for students to call and counselors should be available to talk with students. Rumors need to be taken seriously and passed along to the proper authorities.

8. Does the school have an adequate campus-wide communication system?

Classrooms can be isolated in a campus setting. Safety can be enhanced when schools have a way for teachers or students to communicate with the main office or outside world in the event of an emergency.

9. What type of physical security does the school employ?

Schools that are successfully lowering crime, violence and vandalism on campus are using a variety of safety measures that include today’s technology. Cameras not only act as a deterrent, but they also can monitor distant areas of the campus usually without added manpower. Many schools use handheld metal detectors for periodic surprise checks and electronic access control systems to limit access to the campus.

10. Does the school conduct regular security and safety assessments?

Schools can limit potential problems by taking a full assessment of the school, environment and surrounding areas. Something as simple as new fencing or additional lighting can minimize a potential hazard. Some schools have eliminated lockers, thus removing potential hiding places for weapons or other banned substances. Administrators often inspect the entire school campus, pinpointing remote or obstructed areas that are difficult to monitor. Security experts can be consulted to conduct this type of assessment.

These School Safety Tips are adapted from information provided by ADT Security Services.