Have We Made Our Schools Safer?
This past weekend marked one year since the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. During this time, we read, listened to, and participated in discussions on how to keep our schools safe and secure. And also during this time, at least 25 school shootings have occurred, including Friday's shooting at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. School safety is a complicated issue with no single or simple solution.
Have we made our schools safer over the past year? Earlier this year we hosted a discussion on the Whole Child Podcast on what we, as educators, believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but also safe places to teach and learn. Guests Joseph Bergant II, superintendent of Chardon Schools in Ohio; Howard Adelman, professor of psychology at UCLA and codirector of the School Mental Health Project and the Center for Mental Health in Schools (a whole child partner); and Jonathan Cohen, adjunct professor in psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and president and cofounder of whole child partner National School Climate Center discussed what is required for students and adults to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe in schools.
We also shared articles and resources on the importance of safer, connected schools, including
- "What's in Our Control: Safer, Connected Environments" by Sean Slade
- "Support, Optimism, and Hope" by Klea Scharberg
- "A Blind Spot in School Safety" by Peter DeWitt
- "WANTED: Schools Wired for Safety" by John M. Eger
- "Safer Schools for Living, Growing, and Learning" by Sean Slade
- "Making Schools Safer in the Wake of Sandy Hook" by Sam Chaltain
- "Our Children Are Counting on Us" by Marc Cohen
- "Safer, Not Safe" by Jason Ellingson
- "Only Whole Children Can Make Schools Safe" by Thom Markham
- "Respect, Compassion, and Fairness in Schools" by Paula Mirk
- "School Safety Lessons Learned: From Cleveland to Newtown" by Stephen Sroka
We know that fostering trusting relationships between adults and students is the most effective way to improve school safety. We work together to build positive school climate, create supportive environments, open doors, and invite the community into schools. We provide clearly communicated rules, values, and expectations that support everyone feeling safe and secure. We share resources on responding and building resiliency within safe learning environments before and after a crisis.
As educators, we put our students first every day. ASCD's Executive Director and CEO Gene R. Carter reminds us that
During these conversations, let us not lose sight of the fact that we must honor and support those, who, in times of ultimate trial, show us what it means to be an educator. It means putting our students first, giving them a chance in life, and allowing them to grow.
In tribute and remembrance, several ASCD EDge members and ASCD authors have written blog posts that pay individual homage to the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Organizer Mike Fisher writes,
What we need to do now is remember. We need to keep these lights alive forever. We have to continue to be vigilant for our children and our schools.