The Changing Landscape of School Safety
As the bell rings to begin another school year across the country, our school systems continue to search for answers to a question that has become more and more important in recent history, “How do we keep our students and staff safe?”
School Safety in The US
The changing landscape of school safety isn’t always easy to discuss, and has proven equally challenging to solve. In 2018 alone, there have been over 60 incidents in which gunfire was reported in schools. While not every shooting results in fatalities or injuries, and indeed, not every event classified as a school shooting is a malicious attempt to harm students and faculty, any weapon brought into a school is cause for concern, and a large percentage of these incidents are high-danger scenarios for students and faculty. It is these incidents that have administrators, parents, government agencies, and private businesses working so hard to understand, prevent, and minimize them when they do occur. We asked parents what they believed the key issues were as their children returned to school, and just over 85% of them answered that “school safety” is one of their top three priorities for the year. This growing sentiment highlights parents’ and students’ changing needs, and presents a shift in focus for administrators as well. “Parents have a lot of questions”, explained the superintendent of one large Michigan school, “They want to know what we’re doing to make our schools safer, what steps we’re taking. It changes how we operate and view things a little, but at the heart of the issue is always the desire for all parties involved to keep our kids safe”.
A Changing World Means Changing Needs
As school safety needs have changed in the US, so have the systems designed to protect our students and staff. One of the key components of a safe school environment is a comprehensive system designed to protect students and staff if an event occurs. Required features of these systems include the ability to warn an entire campus immediately of potential danger, to lockdown rooms and prevent access by threats to key areas including classrooms, offices, and any other potential safe-zone, to give both visual and audio indicators that allow for efficient movement by students and staff to safe rooms, to deploy quickly, and to communicate effectively with first responders and police, reducing response time, and aiding key personnel in locating and neutralizing the threat. Further, students, faculty, staff, and first responders need the training necessary to remain calm and to work quickly to ensure that remaining safe, and disarming the threat are key priorities. “School safety has changed over the past several years”, states Midland County Sheriff Scott Stephenson, “while there are many pieces involved in maintaining a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff, one of those pieces is a strong school safety and security system that protects students and aids law enforcement when a situation does arise”.
Working With Law Enforcement
While it’s important for students, staff, faculty, and parents to feel safe, and for those within a school to understand how to use a threat deterrent system effectively, it’s also important that there be an understanding that law enforcement and school staff be at the forefront of system knowledge, and that any company working in our field understands that. When asked about how law enforcement personnel should be involved throughout the implementation process, Stephenson maintained that “cooperation with law enforcement personnel and first responders is critical”. At the LockOut Co., we agree with sheriff Stephenson. While it’s important to us that every school, university, government building, and other potential targets of threats are protected by a safety and security system of some kind, we believe that working with law enforcement and key community members, and respecting their needs first, is paramount in protecting these locations. Sheriff Stephenson went on to explain that, “A company wanting to make sure schools are safe will work with us first, and if there are certain aspects of a system that need to be kept confidential for our protocols, and to ensure a potential threat doesn’t have access to important information, that company needs to respect that”. We respect and trust that the media has our best interests, and the interests of our communities at heart, and we welcome them to learn more when the opportunity arises, however, working with law enforcement, and respecting their needs first, is at the heart of our values as a company.
Our belief as a company is that a comprehensive approach to school safety is, and will be, the most effective route moving into the future. While we champion positive preventive efforts, we do attempt to maintain distance from political discussions on many issues. Ultimately, our goal, our vision, is safe schools that don’t have to live in fear of the potential for dangerous scenarios, while simultaneously being prepared, secured, and safe if an event does take place. We picture schools that not only have the technology required to combat dangerous threats, as well as the training and instruction to understand the systems with which they can create a secure environment, a prepared environment, if a scenario does occur.