As concerns about safety increase, schools may have funded or non funded protection systems. A non funded, site-based safety sysÂ¬tem might function with the use of volunteer monitors, parent safety teams, or student hall patrols; a funded system might include a contract for services with the local police department or the hiring of peace officers as school employees.
One example of an extensive 24-hour protection system is the San Diego City Schools Police Services Department (1995). Serving a large urban school district with 196 schools, the department's staff consists of 34 sworn armed officers and 13 non-sworn community service officers. The protection services include response to a district-wide computerized fire and intrusion alarm system.
Before safety services are implemented, faculty, staff, and parents should be invited to offer suggestions on ways for officers to interact with students. When assigned to a school, peace officers can enforce school codes and teach students about violence prevention. In most cases, they will patrol the building, stop intruders, and question anyone loitering outside the building. They may also assist at athletic and school-sponsored events to prevent violence and supervise the movement of people.
Posting signs is another form of school security. They can direct visitors to sign in and out at the main office and wear an identification badge while in the building. In addition, signs remind students to be mindful of policies regarding weapons possession, drugs, locker searches, and rules about leaving campus. Parents should receive in-formation about policies and be invited to make suggestions regarding school safety. A school-home-community group that meets regularly to discuss problems and security ideas is also helpful.
A secure environment conforms to the protective strategies listed on the "safe school inventory" and supplies both students and teachers with personal safety information. In addition, they are told to avoid wearing expensive clothing and valuable jewelry if thefts occur often. Sometimes student uniforms will solve the probÂ¬lem, reduce peer pressure, build school pride, and make it easy to identify students.
As for gang members, male and female, school personnel should have an idea of what to look for to identify students who belong. They are sometimes identifiable by special colors, clothing, hair styles, insignias, graffiti marks, gestures, or code words. As a way of discouraging gang fights on school property, administrators and safety officers should know and talk with gang members about the consequences of violence. Any rumors or reports of possible racial or gang fights among students should be taken seriously.
Also, the employee background check is a safe-school employÂ¬ment practice. The personnel office has to ensure that no one with a history of violent criminal behavior or an arrest record for sex-related crimes (sexual assault, child molestation) is granted employment. In some school districts, employees are also tested for drug use and investigated for major infractions against their driver's license (check your state laws).
Another safety feature is to prepare school employees to respond quickly to a crisis situation using a systematic plan to start action when notified. As part of the plan, faculty and staff are trained for specific roles and know how to react in an emergency situation (e.g., natural disasters, shootings, accidents).
If no school crisis management plan or notification system is currently available, the planning process can begin by organizing a comprehensive crisis intervention team. School employees, along with representatives from community health agencies, social service agencies, and emergency organizations, should be members of the team. They can assist with efforts to develop a crisis response plan, provide crisis response training, and maintain a state of readiness to deal with unexpected emergencies.
These suggestions for a safe school are proactive and prevention-oriented measures, with the understanding that policies, goals, and procedures differ among schools. School leaders should allow their personnel the freedom to adjust and adapt ideas to ensure students a secure environment.