Guest blog by Dr. Sonayia Shepherd
You have probably heard the term “school safety” numerous times. Educators, practitioners, parents, and media use the term often, but what does it really mean? How do you know if a school is really safe? First, it is important to understand that creating a safe learning environment is an ongoing process. There is no magical formula. The entire school community must incorporate safety practices into daily routines. Basically, “school safety” consists of a variety of programs and services that are designed to contribute to the maintenance and establishment of safe and positive learning environments. Here are a few specific school safety topics and definitions as examples:
- School Climate and Culture
The terms school culture and school climate describe the environment that affects the behavior of teachers and students. School culture is the shared beliefs and attitudes that characterize the district-wide organization and establish boundaries for its constituent units. School climate characterizes the organization at the school building and classroom level. It refers to the “feel” of a school and can vary from school to school within the same district. While an individual school can develop a climate independently of the larger organization, changes in school culture at the district level can positively or adversely affect school climate at the building level.
- Target Hardening
Target Hardening is an approach to making the school a less attractive target for anyone with “bad intent.” School officials should work with community partners to assess systems such as school building access, visitor policies and sign in procedures, deliveries, transportation security, vehicular access & parking, interior and exterior building evaluation, etc.
- Crisis and Emergency Management Planning
Crisis Management is the management and coordination of the school’s responses to an incident that threatens to harm, or has harmed, the organization’s people, structures, ability to operate, valuables and/or reputation. It takes into account planning and automatic incident response, but must also dynamically deal with situations as they unfold, often in unpredictable ways.
Defining school safety terminology can be helpful to help make sure people are on the same page when working to achieve enhanced school safety, security and emergency preparedness.
Dr. Sonayia Shepherd (Sony) is the Chief Operating Officer of Safe Havens International. The author of 16 books on school safety and emergency management, Sony’s work has taken her to many countries including Switzerland, Thailand, Indonesia, Haiti, Guatemala, Angola, South Africa and India.
A popular keynote speaker, Dr. Shepherd has presented at numerous state, national and international professional conferences and many individual school districts across the nation. Sony welcomes reader feedback and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org