I should have written an emotional piece. But that would be manipulation, right?
So here is a simple telling – and an appeal to schools. Work on School Safety. Call for help if you need it.
Safety in Schools
One more child lost his life. The third call this week to speak about it, and I knew I could not bear to speak of the horrors unleashed by – accident? The news journalist and I were both in tears on the phone wondering, how do we make this stop?
I ran a school safety campaign for four years. It was meant to be five, but extra legislation and notifications came in after year four, and like all policy do-gooders, I declared it a policy win. Technically, it was a win. In my heart, I knew it was not good enough. The campaign ran from 2013 to 2017. I may talk of it elsewhere – here, I’ll just say that we gathered anecdotal data from the news, creating a typology of school incidents. We ran surveys of parents to get their stories of safety concerns. We visited schools and marked out unsafe areas. We even participated in cybersafety campaigns and projects. We spoke of social and emotional safety long before SEL – Social and Emotional Learning became a buzzword. Chalk that up as a win too, we laid the ground for progress on SEL. Solid work, ya?
No amount of work on safety is ever going to be enough. That is the first rule of safety work. You will never get it perfectly right, accidents happen. But you – and that is all of us – can do every little bit to make our schools safer for our students. There are tools, techniques. A safety wheel (search this site, you’ll find a post) that you can take to your board, and create annual plans. Safety drills and workshops.
Safety is a habit. Safe habits have to be drilled in. Schools are masters at drilling students in the habit of exams, of walking in lines, of obedience to masters. Schools know how to build safety drills. But they don’t. It is seen as a waste of time. Time away from marks. I remember the worst day for me on the School Safety Campaign. A school head, who was a well wisher and almost a friend said it straight to me – “Ma’am, we will not be able to do any safety work on our own. You get a circular out, and we will comply”
Circulars came and they brought CCTVs to school, barbed wires, grills on windows. Schools look like prison yards now. Policing is not always prevention. Safety cultures prevent incidents from happening, policing can only point and punish after the incident.
To a parent who has lost their child – what did we owe to them? Prevention Protocols before the incident, or pointing blame after a tragedy?
No school, no parent, no friend, no child wants to die because the prevention protocols and drills were too boring and were not in place.
All talk, year after year. I saw no school call a safety meeting even when 3 incidents happened within weeks. More talk here, as TV people called me to to speak about it. Do listen, I spoke from the heart.
Call that safety meeting today.