March 23, 2017

A Serious Look at School Safety

By Charlie Hammonds

Having been a police officer for over 30 years, and having worked as a school resource officer for five years with a K-9, I have some insight into school safety concerns. I am now a high school forensics science instructor, and I am able to see the world of education from a new perspective.

Our schools today are overwhelmed by to-do lists. Every year new protocols, guidelines, and standards are pushed on administrators and teachers alike. Teachers hardly have time to achieve the tasks at hand, and rarely consider campus safety concerns. With all that being said, we have a true need in creating the safest environment for the students. In order to do that, we need to have every employee, staff member, volunteer and student to buy in to school safety.

How do we achieve this?

In safety and security you are only as strong as the weakest link. I challenge anyone to walk around the perimeter of their building and see how many doors are found propped open or unlocked for easy access by the staff.

Next, we need to build a connection between every student and one or more staff members at the school. There is a program that was started, I believe, in California, I read about several years ago called the “Star Program.” In this program, the staff would meet; custodians, cooks, teachers, and administrators would get together at the beginning of the year and go through the names of all the students. If one of the staff personally knew a student, a star would be put by the student’s name– if more than one staff member knew the student, they would add another star. After they went through the entire roster, they would notice students without stars. The administrators would then assign staff members to become personally associated with those students, and they would then begin building relationships with the students. This program costs little to nothing. The reasoning is this– if a student feels they have personal ties to the school, they are less likely to act out at the school or against the school.

These are just a couple of examples that could help achieve a safer school environment today. I hope to put more suggestions out as time goes by.

Remember we are the ones who can make our schools safer, and if we don’t who will?

CharlieHammonds

Charlie Hammonds

Instructor/First Responder at Collins Career and Technical Center

Thank you, Charlie, for sharing your thoughts on school safety with our community!

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Jason G

This is a great idea! Really like the fact that you can visually see the ones that really need some adult support.

Sean Dunlap

This is amazing! I wish the schools I support would do something like this. It would help with the students who don’t feel like they belong…maybe eliminating or decreasing the chances of any issues from happening.

Melissa

Love the idea of the Star program!

I love the “star” idea – this would be a great way to connect even the staff with one another- I wonder how many times that the staff take time to meet one another? If you are having them get together to identify students – this would be a great start!

Erica

Our district has done a good job of putting expectations and practices into place that prevent any doors except the front doo from being unlocked at any time. They have also installed a system in which all visitors must check in through the office with their deiver’s License which is screened for potential threats. I know we have a ways to go, but I feel like we are moving in the right direction.

Richard Kaliszewski

Not only does this improve safety, but it also builds a sense of community. This is something that I could see my own school implementing, thank you for sharing this with us.

I love the Star program! What child doesn’t want to feel a connection or a sense of belonging? I can’t say for sure if this type of program has been started in our district (although, I wouldn’t be surprised – we have amazing staff members!) but I am for sure going to mention it at our next SSIT meeting!