One of the cool things about what we do at Safe Havens is that we get to see so many different approaches to school safety, security and emergency preparedness as we visit schools across the United States and abroad. I have seen better school security practices in some schools I visited by donkey drawn cart and dugout canoe in the Mekong Delta than I have seen in some public and independent schools in of the most affluent parts of the country. That said, American schools generally do tend to do a better job in many areas of school safety in contrast to what we see in South Africa, the U.K., Canada, Bolivia and other places we have worked.
While schools in the U.K. typically have far better access control than the majority of their U.S. counterparts billions of dollars of federal funding, research, a steady stream of frightening media coverage following major incidents like Monday’s deadly school shooting in Chardon, Ohio have created a lot of positive change in American school safety. Sadly, we see dangerous situations in schools on a daily basis and still encounter the pervasive “it can’t happen here” mentality from school employees, students and parents”. While people in reality know deep down that a major school crisis event such as a tornado, fire, earthquake or active shooter situation could occur in their community, they often do not seem to face these types of risks as part of the reality of possibilities on a more practical day to day. This is why we so often see such massive changes in safety, security and emergency preparedness after an event occurs. Once injuries and deaths have actually occurred, people typically begin to assign a much greater priority to safety than they did prior to the incident, regardless of how much they had in place prior to the event.
One big advantage we have in the United States, Canada and in a number of other developed countries is the ability to see what our neighbors are doing to improve school safety to get ideas for improvement. It is extremely common for us to find an exceptional practice in one school system or non-public school that is not in use ten miles away at another school in a nearby town. With public school systems, it is extremely common to see a practice in place in one school that would benefit all schools in the district if it were implemented at those schools. This can even crop up in litigation when a school safety expert witness points out that a practice that is in place in several schools in the district would likely have averted a tragedy had it been also used in a school where an incident has not occurred.
Taking the time to visit other schools in the region can help spread new and effective ideas effectively. Many of these ideas are inexpensive, practical and effective school safety solutions.