Building Safer Environments for Students by Dan Leakey
I recall watching an episode of a popular medical drama on TV. This specific episode covered the storyline of a teenage boy who laid down in wet concrete. Rushing him to the ER, the medical team worked hard to remove him from the concrete and stop him from being crushed as it hardened. They made sure his vitals were good, eased the burns forming from the lime and kept him calm. All the while one particular member of the team kept stepping back, saying, “We’re missing something, what’s the bigger picture.” Ultimately, it was discovered that although they were keeping him hydrated because of the effects of the concrete on his body they had failed to think ahead – eventually he was going to need to urinate! This meant the team needed to work faster to remove him from the setting stone before it caused major internal issues. Thankfully, good TV dramas have happy endings – the lad was saved and may have even gotten a date with the girl he was trying to impress.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
As I work on operations plans for our School district, I constantly try to step back and think “What is the bigger picture?” I have tools that help me plan effectively the five buildings in the district but that’s not enough. School safety has stigmas and stereo types attached to it. Often we think worse case scenarios based on media reports and historical events. It’s important to plan for these scenarios but there’s often a bigger picture we need to step back and view.
Stepping back often gives us the opportunity to look closer into more defined areas. With my limited experience working in safety plans, I often invite local first responders and law enforcement into the district. This helps me build more effective relationships for future events but also gives my guest, opportunity to get to know our school environment. For first responders from the fire & ambulance depts., building layouts and labeling of exits, FDC’s and shut off areas are vital points to acknowledge. Law enforcement officers are able to point out areas which are covered and may need to be more exposed. Working with staff in the building, like the School nurse or principal, even the maintenance staff allow me to see that big picture and begin seeing how best we can serve the students as an end result. Just little changes to operations plans or how we label FDC’s on site help crews become more effective if and when the time comes.
Safe Environments for Students
Once my bigger picture is portrayed, the smaller defined areas help us address the students on a much more individual basis. It enables us to see the world their eyes and make positive impacts, the once unexposed areas help shine a light on the kids who retreat and need a little help bringing them closer to their peers. The proper placements of AED’s or water fountains, give us the opportunity to make sure certain special needs students can enjoy school life knowing we’ve got their back.
To the kids in our district, we’re more than educators and building staff. We’re not just a team -We’re family, we provide warmth, encouragement and care. We provide a safe space to grow and learn. Safety comes naturally when we step back to enjoy the big picture and appreciate the details too! Too often school safety is associated with tragic conclusions but it shouldn’t have to. With the right planning and preparation, our school families can have happy endings too!
Asst. Tech Coordinator at Newcomerstown Schools
Thank you, Dan, for sharing your how you look at school safety in your schools!